‘The Shiksa Syndrome’

Via email, I interviewed author Laurie Graff via email about her new novel Shiksa Syndrome.

* How did you choose this topic?

Shiksa Syndrome’s been around a long time. I actually came up with it when I was acting and living in LA in 1990. It seemed every creative Jewish guy I wanted, wanted a shiksa. It was a short story, a story telling piece I performed, and a chapter in my first novel You Have to Kiss a Lot of Frogs. When my agent and I were brainstorming ideas I mentioned I was sorry in a way that I had used it in Frogs because it would have been a great stand alone. She said it stil could be. The premise is the same, a Jewish girl pretending to be a shiksa. But it took a bit for me to rethink the story. But I’m glad I did. By the way, the title of this book is ever so slightly different: The Shiksa Syndrome.

* The writing of novels. Is it getting easier or harder?

It gets harder because it’s become a real thing; it’s not a fluke anymore. And I know more about the publishing business than I did first time around – sometimes ignorance is bliss. But there’s a great satisfaction to it and astonishing, actually, to see this finished product, a book on the shelf at Barnes & Noble and say – hey… I wrote that!

* You seem to be exploring Judaism… What’s going on with that journey?

I don’t actually feel I’m exploring Judaism. In fact, sadly, I’ve been going to services way less since I’ve been writing because I work so much more now than I used to. But what happened in writing Shiksa, was that my feelings about Judaism really crystallized. I felt proud of how it lives inside me.

* What things excite you or depress you about rabbis?

It’s always exciting to hear a point of view that often engages the heart, soul, and intellect all in one. I feel fortunate to be a member of B’nai Jeshurun in New York City. It’s a very unique place. Very smart, historic, musical… even theatrical. Progressive, political. So whenever one of the rabbi’s at BJ speak you’re in for a treat. It’s not just “another rabbi.”

* Is life harder on women than on men?

My mother would definitely say ‘it’s a man’s world.’ As an actress I didn’t feel it as much as I do now. I love being a woman, but I don’t feel the world quite embraces a woman’s power. And in many instances it is stronger than a man’s. We’ve not made as much headway in that arena as people would like. Or admit.

* Is synagogue a good or a bad place to meet a man?

If you meet a man there it’s a good place, if you don’t, it isn’t. It hasn’t worked for me. I go to BJ to pray! Theoretically it’s a good place. But theoretically so is JDate.

* Is the Upper West Side a good or a bad place to be single?

When I came to New York the Upper West Side meant bohemian and theater people. Dance studios, voice teachers, actors, and artists. The city has changed a lot and so has the Upper West Side. It’s a neighborhood. It doesn’t seem to be a big singles hangout to me unless, perhaps, if you’re in your twenties. But New York is a pretty easy place to get around. You can always leave and go to another part of the city or Brooklyn if you think you’ll have a better shot elsewhere.

* As a man, I usually find the prospect of sex with someone I barely know much more exciting than sex with someone I know well (because the stranger I am able to sexually objectify while you can’t objectify someone you know well). Do you think men & women are different in what turns them on and how do you deal with the differences, if any? Do you cry or laugh or both?

I used to laugh a lot more about it than I do now. It’s a really sad situation. You’re honest about admitting what you just did, but honestly, that’s a lot of why there are so many problems in creating relationships. Because these days there are so few stakes in the need to have a relationship, people go through each other on their way to the next.

The Internet has made it way too easy to objectify people. And people are objectifying sex. Women are beginning to do it to get even with men. And while women can do it too, I believe it’s emotionally easier for men. However, now everyone is losing.

I think we’d be in better shape taking sex away from men for awhile. Bring back courtship. Getting to know someone. Earning sex. Earning love. There’s no love in this equation. There’s a real lack of compassion. Not to mention the absence of passion. Aimee, in The Shiksa Syndrome, does find love. She needs it. We all do.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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