The Boy’s Own Manual To Be Being A Proper Jew

Eli Glasman

The Boy's Own Manual To Be Being A Proper Jew
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The Boy’s Own Manual To Be Being A Proper Jew

Eli Glasman

Set in the orthodox Jewish community in Melbourne, The Boy’s Own Manual to Being a Proper Jew, follows Yossi, the most religious do-gooder in his class, who is also a closeted homosexual, as he struggles to consolidate his religious beliefs with his sexual orientation.

Review

Here’s a fine response to the call for more diverse YA books: the story of a gay teenager growing up in the Orthodox Jewish community of Melbourne.

Yossi is a devoted, intelligent member of the close-knit society, which makes his sexual awakening even more interesting. Not for him a black-and-white rebellion or a quiet exit from the only world he’s ever known. He doesn’t want to leave but to be accepted, and the stringency of his daily life helps us to understand how difficult this will be. We get a glimpse into beliefs and rituals from a respectful point of view (or so I imagine), because although Yossi can’t and won’t deny his sexual feelings (privately, at least), he also can’t and won’t reject his religion. He won’t listen to the radio during Shabbat, for example, rationalising that it’s against the spirit of the Jewish day of rest. He follows every ritual to the letter.

I found Yossi’s story fascinating. Eli Glasman’s style has a naive quality that may grate with some readers, but it’s one that others may find suits Yossi’s character, rather like how Adrian Mole’s awkward tone suits him. Although I couldn’t shrug the feeling that the narrative wrapped up too neatly for such a progressive, unconventional storyline, the journey more than made up for it.


Emily Gale is a Children’s & YA Specialist at Readings Carlton, and a Children’s & YA writer the rest of the time.

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