PA­PER IS WHITE

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight - MYA ALEXICE

Hi­lary Zaid, By­wa­ter Books (MARCH) Soft­cover $16.95 (318pp), 978-1-61294-113-4

Hi­lary Zaid’s earnest and mov­ing Pa­per Is White ex­plores the in­ter­sec­tion of les­bian and Jewish iden­tity through its mem­o­rable char­ac­ters, Ellen and Francine, as they try to get mar­ried in the 1990s. Their in­trigu­ing story is gen­uine and heart­felt.

Mar­riage equal­ity is not yet a re­al­ity in Amer­ica when Ellen and Francine de­cide to wed. Threat­en­ing their per­fect wed­ding is the crux of Ellen’s anx­i­ety: she never had the chance to come out to her grand­mother, who died years be­fore. This un­re­solved part of Ellen’s life haunts her and leads her to reach out to a Holo­caust sur­vivor who re­minds her of her grand­mother. As Ellen and the woman, Anya, grow close, long-buried se­crets come to the sur­face.

Pa­per Is White is a charm­ing book whose true strength comes from its be­liev­able, sin­cere, and cap­ti­vat­ing char­ac­ters. The most in­trigu­ing el­e­ments come into play when the dy­nam­ics be­tween the char­ac­ters emerge. Their di­a­logue and in­ter­ac­tions are au­then­tic and their growth is what drives the story, which can move slowly at times. Zaid’s prose is well ar­tic­u­lated and neat, hold­ing at­ten­tion when the story drags.

In a deeper sense, Pa­per Is White raises im­por­tant ques­tions about his­tory and com­mu­nity. Ellen and Francine find them­selves dis­ap­pointed in their Jewish com­mu­nity as they nav­i­gate the world as les­bian women, but they do not lose faith in their iden­tity. Ellen in par­tic­u­lar works to bet­ter un­der­stand her com­mu­nity in re­la­tion to her sex­u­al­ity and to cul­ti­vate some­thing new in its place. This novel bal­ances the fun­da­men­tal story and the larger themes in an honest, skill­ful man­ner.

Pa­per Is White is a nu­anced, whole­hearted jour­ney through a re­la­tion­ship that re­mains strong even through many ob­sta­cles.

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