Cover image for It's a whole spiel : love, latkes, and other Jewish stories
It's a whole spiel : love, latkes, and other Jewish stories

1st ed.
Physical Description:
316 pages ; 22 cm.
Indoor kids / Two truths and an oy / The hold / Aftershocks / Good Shabbos / Jewbacca / El Al 328 / Some days you're the sidekick; some days you're the superhero / He who revives the dead / Be brave and all / Neilah / Find the river / Ajshara / Twelve frames
From stories of confronting their relationships with Judaism to rom-coms with a side of bagels and lox, It's a Whole Spiel features one story after another that says yes, we are Jewish, but we are also queer, and disabled, and creative, and political, and adventurous, and anything we want to be. --


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A Jewish boy falls in love with a fellow counselor at summer camp. A group of Jewish friends take the trip of a lifetime. A girl meets her new boyfriend's family over Shabbat dinner. Two best friends put their friendship to the test over the course of a Friday night. A Jewish girl feels pressure to date the only Jewish boy in her grade. Hilarious pranks and disaster ensue at a crush's Hanukkah party.

From stories of confronting their relationships with Judaism to rom-coms with a side of bagels and lox, It's a Whole Spiel features one story after another that says yes, we are Jewish, but we are also queer, and disabled, and creative, and political, and adventurous, and anything we want to be. You will fall in love with this insightful, funny, and romantic Jewish anthology from a collection of diverse Jewish authors.

Author Notes

Katherine Locke lives and writes in a very small town outside of Philadelphia, where she's ruled by her feline overlords and her addiction to chai lattes. She writes about that which she cannot do- ballet, time travel, and magic. When she's not writing, she's probably tweeting. She not so secretly believes most stories are fairy tales in disguise. Her YA debut, The Girl with the Red Balloon , was a Sydney Taylor Honor Book. You can find Katherine online at @Bibliogato on Twitter and

Laura Silverman received her MFA in writing for children from the New School. She is the author of Girl Out of Water and You Asked for Perfect. She currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, and spends a lot of time on the floor petting dogs. You can say hello on Twitter at @LJSilverman1 or through her website,

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this anthology of 14 short stories by YA authors, the protagonists experience all the familiar exhilaration, embarrassment, and anxiety of late adolescence, with physical symptoms to match: they're torn, they freeze up, they blush, and one character's heart "crash against her rib cage." They are also Jewish, and what that means--in terms of family, upbringing, and beliefs--adds additional layers of questioning and rumination to their fledgling sense of themselves. Several characters are growing up in interfaith or highly secularized families; the narrator in Hannah Moskowitz's "Neilah" (named for the closing service of Yom Kippur) yearns for her family's Christmas tree even as her relationship with a more devout young woman deepens. The voices throughout feel confiding, empathic, with just the right amount of self-deprecating humor; in several stories, a playful, meta sensibility incorporates footnotes, texting, and Tumblr posts. And throughout, the underlying assurance is that the world is largely benign or benevolent--as the narrator of Alex London's "Indoor Kids" says, "I'd had my bar mitzvah and come out of the closet the same year, and both went... fine." Ages 12--up. (Sept.)

Horn Book Review

In this anthology of fourteen short stories by Jewish authors and about Jewish teens, youth trips, camp, and other group activities are fertile ground for stories of social dynamics. Variations in religious background and practice provide plenty of fodder for fish-out-of-water tales, and the stories matter-of-factly reflect details of Jewish life rarely seen in mainstream YA (for example, a character in Goldy Moldavskys Good Shabbos must memorize a lengthy street address because she cant write it down on the Sabbath). Dilemmas related to religious identity range from Orthodox teen Amalias failed attempt to limit how often she mentions her Judaism during college orientation (Dahlia Adlers Two Truths and an Oy) to not-really-that-Jewish Ryes inability to fake his way through the Hanukkah story (Lance Rubins Jewbacca). Though most of the tales are contemporary realism, theres some variety in genreAdi Alsaids Ajshara, for instance, is a fantasy that follows Tzvi, who sees ghosts, from Mexico to Israel. The stories also acknowledge the variety of Jewish experience, including some diversity beyond religion, mostly in terms of sexuality. This collection provides a refreshing opportunity for Jewish teens of many beliefs and backgrounds to see themselvesand for others to see themin stories that are as much about entertainment as they are about Jewishness. shoshana flax September/October 2019 p.93(c) Copyright 2019. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

A revelatory short story collection whose spiel is teenage longing and devotion.Locke (The Spy With the Red Balloon, 2018, etc.) and Silverman (You Asked for Perfect, 2019, etc.) have compiled #ownvoices stories by some of the hottest names in YA in which young people strive for self-discovery and belonging. From sports camp to synagogue, from a Shabbat table to an airplane, from America to Israel, readers encounter teens who feel they are not enoughnot Jewish enough, not secular enough, not sexually experienced enough. Jewish teens travel alone, have crushes, make space for God, feel inadequate, and confront shame around not feeling like a good Jew. They kvetch and cry, show surprising amounts of chutzpah, and most, eventually, find their ways to what is sacred, which is not always religious. The stories are vibrant and honest portrayals of contemporary teenage life, with the stronger ones stacked at the end of the volume, most notably Locke's layered narrative of a fractured friendship healed digitally via fan fiction and Moskowitz's (Salt, 2018, etc.) purposefully fragmented and artful narrative of a young woman in her first lesbian relationship dealing with identity and disordered eating on the holiest day of the year. There is diversity in sexual orientation and levels of religious observance; one protagonist is Latinx. Although racially myopic, these are sincere and enlightening stories about achieving self-acceptance. (contributor biographies) (Short story collection. 14-18) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

There are many #OwnVoices anthologies out there, but this compilation of short stories by Jewish authors might be a first. Locke and Silverman have collected 14 stories, and, though the circumstances vary (there are two stories about Birthright trips), there is an underlying unity in how insecure many of the teens feel about their Judaism. A number come from nonreligious homes; some don't feel Jewish enough; and others try to pretend they are more Jewish than they are when confronting crushes who are more knowledgeable about their shared faith. This tentativeness will no doubt strike a chord with many readers who fall on the more secular side of Jewishness, but they will also be familiar with the pull of being Jewish, whatever level of worship. The stories vary in quality, with David Levithan's blend of religion and romance being the standout. But there's poignancy in Dana Schwartz' meditation about her inability fo find romance, and a fresh feel to Locke's story about a fan-fiction writer. A forward by The Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik is a good opener.--Ilene Cooper Copyright 2019 Booklist



Indoor Kids     By Alex London     It happened somewhere over Canada, although it had probably been happening since Australia. No one even knew anything had gone wrong until the International Space Station was over the Atlantic, a tiny dot of light heading toward the west coast of Africa, not a single earthly eye on it, and we only found out at camp because Jackson Kimmel had an aunt who worked at NASA.   She was not an astronaut.   She was in human resources, so she didn't actually do anything with the space program, but she texted her nephew, because space was his "thing," and her nephew told me, because he knew space was also my "thing," and that's how summer camp works: find someone whose thing is your thing and geek out together.   It would've been nice if I'd had someone to geek out with who wasn't a ten-year-old.   "They think it was an impact with space junk," Jackson said, waving his arms around while he circled me. He was one of those kids in constant, exhausting motion. "Did you know that NASA tracks over half a million pieces of space debris that orbit the earth? It travels at seventeen thousand five hundred miles per hour, so, like, that could cut through a space station. Usually they have all kinds of warnings and ways to maneuver around space junk. They call it the 'pizza box' because it's an imaginary box that's a mile deep and thirty miles wide around the vehicle, and if anything looks like it's gonna get too close to the 'box,' they take steps to keep the astronauts and the equipment safe, but not all the debris is tracked, so maybe they missed something? My aunt doesn't know; she just does paperwork for people's travel to conferences. She got to meet Leland Melvin once. Do you know who he is? He's spent over five hundred sixty-five hours in space during his career, but you probably know him as the astronaut who took his official NASA portrait with his dogs? You ever see it? The dogs' names are Jack and Scout. Or Jake? I can't remember. Do you have a dog? I named my dog Elon, after Elon Musk, but now I think that--"   "Okay, Jackson." I interrupted his monologue. He had actually made air quotes with his fingers around the words "pizza box." What ten-year-old makes air quotes? "Take a breath and change for basketball."   His smile vanished, his face a crash landing, no survivors.   "Do I haaaave to?" he whined. I wanted to tell him, No, of course not! Who sends their ten-year-old space nerd to a sports camp when there is an actual place called Space Camp! Your parents should be punished for this! But sports were required at Camp Winatoo, and Jackson had to go play basketball before he could come back for afternoon science club in Craft Cabin.   It was my unfortunate duty to make him go play basketball, just as it had been some other seventeen-year-old counselor-in-training's job to force me to go play basketball when I was a ten-year-old space nerd here. That's the curse of the indoor kids. People are always trying to make us go outside and play. The bastards.   Now I was one of them.   "Yes, you have to," I told him.   I would have much rather spent the morning talking about the merits of the Falcon 9 rocket in commercial applications, but that wasn't an option, not if I wanted to keep my job. The silver lining of this job was that I, personally, did not have to go to basketball. I had the entire early afternoon to do what I pleased. I was extremely lucky today, because I didn't even have to supervise the aftermath of basketball, which was one of the worst jobs you could have. Those kids smelled ripe. Old enough for BO, not quite old enough to have figured out deodorant. And the ones that had figured it out? Axe Body Spray might be the worst thing to have happened in the history of mankind. It's chemical warfare marketed to tweens.   After Jackson skulked off in his too-big basketball jersey, I pulled out my phone, trying to see if there was any news about the space station. Nothing had hit the mainstream media yet, but @GeekHeadNebula on Twitter had posted about a possible catastrophic hull breach impacting all ISS life-support systems.   That seemed a bit dramatic, in the way of breaking news, and I knew the reality would end up more mundane. Not that the mundane couldn't be deadly in the void of space. It was usually the mundane that turned deadly up there.   Kind of like my life on Earth.   The Deadly Mundane could've been the title of my autobiography. Nothing dramatic ever happened to me. I was a junior counselor at the same summer camp I'd gone to as a kid, where I'd known most of the other junior counselors since forever. Back home, I lived in the suburbs and went to the kind of school where teenagers on the Disney Channel would go: everything was well lit and oversaturated, every adult was caring and concerned and a bit clueless, and every family was more affluent than the national average, but not so affluent that we'd be the bad guys in a dystopian novel.   I'd had my bar mitzvah and come out of the closet the same year, and both went . . . fine. I almost cried when my voice cracked during the haftorah recitation, and I also almost cried when my dad told me he was proud I was "living my truth." The bar mitzvah involved me getting envelopes with eighteen-dollar checks in them, and coming out involved my mom putting a pride flag on our car. Neither was earth-shattering.   Excerpted from It's a Whole Spiel: Love, Latkes, and Other Jewish Stories by Katherine Locke, Laura Silverman All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.