𝙏𝙒: 𝙃𝙤𝙡𝙤𝙘𝙖𝙪𝙨𝙩, 𝙨𝙡𝙖𝙫𝙚𝙧𝙮
This was really hard to write and even harder to publish. But when I called my mom to ask her permission, she got emotional and told me how important it is to share our story.
In doing so, I'd like to take a moment to discuss Jewish stereotypes after seeing another non-Jewish Inked reviewer raise concerns that Talia’s mother, Dee Dee, is doing a disservice to the Jewish ethnicity. While I appreciate that the intention comes from a good and caring place, this kind of virtue signaling is not the way to be an ally. And I’d like to explain why.*
Firstly, as a general comment to those reading Inked, if you are not Jewish and/or have not lived in Livingston, Manalapan, or Brooklyn (etc.), and/or do not have a Jewish mother from those areas, I consider it ‘goyim-splaining’ to say it's a stereotype. Dee Dee’s character is based on my own mother, my own experiences, and my own interactions among east coast Ashkenazic** Americans. So, to denounce it as stereotypical is essentially calling my and my mother’s existence a trope. Please stop doing this.
Furthermore, 9 out of 10 of Jewish people that have messaged me after reading Inked have told me that Talia’s interactions with her mother validated their own nutty childhoods. This is by no means an insult. We love our Crazy Jewish Moms, many of whom had terrible upbringings due to being descendants of Holocaust survivors, so we get it.
On that note, I’d like to shift this conversation back a few decades, to World War II. My grandfather, Nathan Rosenberg (pictured below with his Holocaust tattoo), was a slave laborer in a satellite mine of Auschwitz. After he suffered an accident resulting in a broken leg, he was lucky enough that the Nazi doctor took pity on him and secretly treated him instead of shooting him or sending him to a gas chamber like many others. (Because, as anyone familiar with the dark side of human history knows, a wounded slave is a worthless slave.) The Final Solution (a.k.a. Death March) was enacted not long after that, and since my grandfather was unable to keep up with a broken leg, he lay down in a mass grave, pretending to be dead alongside dozens of Jewish corpses, and then eventually hobbled back to Poland, only to find most of his family had been killed by Nazis.
My grandfather, Nathan
Meanwhile, my grandmother, Katherine Frank, had lived her own nightmare after fleeing Nazis in the forbidden Bialowieza Forest. No one will be surprised to discover that she and my grandfather would not have a fairytale marriage.
They eventually immigrated to Brooklyn through Ellis Island, where they had four daughters, including my mother. When my grandmother died not long after that, my overwhelmed grandfather put my traumatized mother and her younger sister in foster care at the ages of 10 and 9, respectively. Suffice it to say, my mom’s formative years were shrouded in poverty, grief, abandonment, and displacement. Which then transformed into deep-rooted anxiety and paranoia when she herself became a mother.
Pair that with the blunt and boisterous east coast culture, and voila, another “stereotypical” Jewish mother is born.
Not all Jewish mothers are as anxious and overbearing as Dee Dee. New York Jewish mothers, in particular, are their own unique and wonderful breed. And certainly, over the years, mom has relaxed into a (relatively) chill person. But calling Dee Dee a "harmful" stereotype not only erases my own childhood, but it diminishes my mother’s (and all the other east coast Jewish mothers with an upbringing like hers.
So please don’t worry about any perceived offense. East Coast Jews get it.
However, if you’d really like to stick up for Jews, please feel free to shut down the next person who compares wearing a mask to the Holocaust. Or, worse, says the Holocaust never existed. Or, hey, go support a book written by a Jewish person that’s championing other Jewish people <3
And for those of you who are head over heels in love with Dee Dee, the real-life Dee Dee sees all of your reviews and LOVES them. So, thank you a million times over for making her day over and over again.
If you've read this far, my mother and I want to thank you for being here. We love and appreciate you.
💜Rachel and Linda (Dee Dee)
* Please remember, the opinions expressed here are my own, and are not meant to be a blanket statement for all Jewish people, who each have their own views and experiences.
** Ashkenazi definition: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Ashkenazi