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Joyce Maynard's latest novel, The Usual Rules
Look for the February 2004 release of The Usual Rules in paperback!

 


A Letter From Joyce


September 22, 2006


Dear Friends,

There was a time in my life (the first thirty five years or so) when the days of Roshashana and Yom Kippur would not have registered much with me. Daughter of a Jewish mother, but raised outside of Jewish religion, and far away from my mother's relatives most of the time, I never identified myself as Jewish. I longed for religion, but never knew what to call myself, or where I belonged.

For me, a couple of things changed that. The first was my mother's death seventeen years ago, when I was thirty five. The second came five years ago, when a young girl entered my life who became very dear to me. Her name is Shani, and she was fourteen at the time. She wrote me a letter from her little village in Israel, asking for my advice about becoming a writer, and we embarked on what became a many -years'-long correspondence. The next year, she came to the United States to study -- earning highest honors as a student at Phillips Exeter, in New Hampshire (the school where I'd graduated many years before), and winning a full scholarship to Harvard.

Shani is now in her second year of service in the Israeli army, and sends me notes now from somewhere in the desert. I would not have guessed I'd ever have, on my computer, photographs of a young girl in an army uniform holding a machine gun...but I do. And though we have disagreed plenty over the years -- still do -- I love this young woman, and discovered, through her, and her family back in Israel (though we have yet to meet) a connection to my own heritage I might not have guessed I'd ever feel.

This past summer, during the many months of particularly scary conflict in the Mideast, when we'd speak by telephone, she used to remind me of the promise I made her when she entered the army, back in 2005 (deferring, for two full years, her entry into college): "Promise me we'll meet in Harvard Square, in the fall , when I'm twenty, " she said. "And we'll drink red wine -- " (never mind, she'd be under age) "and we'll wear beautiful yellow dresses, and then we'll walk together into Harvard Yard...."

I told her I'd be there, of course, and I will be.

Meanwhile, to mark the beginning of the Jewish New Year, Roshashanah, I thought I'd share with you an essay I wrote about the experience of growing up half-Jewish, for a new collection published a few months back, called Half Life (edited by Laurel Snyder, published by Soft Skull press).

Happy New Year to us all.

Joyce Maynard

 

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