The Arty Semite

Author Blog: Passing on Stories

By Jami Attenberg

Earlier this week, Jami Attenberg wrote about growing up Jewish in a small town. Her blog posts are featured on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog Series. For more information on the series, please visit:


My mother was in town for a few days that summer, babysitting her granddaughter (and my niece), while she had some time off between camp and school starting again.

One day I picked the two of them up and drove them to Brighton Beach, which I prefer over Coney Island mostly because I like being around all the Russians, our people a few generations back, but also because it’s easier to find parking there than Coney Island.

On the beach the man selling sodas from a cooler flirted with my mother. She’s still got it, I thought, which I found encouraging in a narcissistic way. We slathered ourselves with suntan lotion and committed to a time limit of exposing ourselves to cancerous rays. We squinted in the sun.

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Author Blog: Different, but Special

By Jami Attenberg

Jami Attenberg’s most recent novel, “The Middlesteins,” is now available. Her other books include: “Instant Love,” “The Kept Man” and “The Melting Season.” Her blog posts are featured on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog Series. For more information on the series, please visit:


I have very distinct memories about growing up as part of what was then a very small Jewish community in Buffalo Grove, IL. Today my hometown has a big Jewish population, as does the rest of the North Shore. But at the time, there was only one other Jewish family on the block, and I don’t recall them being particularly invested in their Judaism. It was on the Attenbergs to represent.

Just what every child wants. To represent their religious differences.

I did get in a few fights in school. Kids threw around anti-Semitic slurs, not knowing necessarily what they meant. It was probably just something they picked up somewhere, as kids do. In third grade a girl called me a kike in gym class, and I challenged her to a fight after school. We met in the soccer field, surrounded by other children. I was chubbier than her, so I just sat on her and sort of slapped her around the head. I was eventually declared the winner. A few years ago she friended me on Facebook, and I declined.

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