Frequently Asked Questions
Why did you write this book?
Sometimes I sit and think about my life situation. Having witnessed the complete emancipation of homosexuals during my lifetime, from a time when same-sex activity was illegal to the sanctioning of gay marriage in Canada and elsewhere, on one such occasion I wondered how I would have survived as a gay man had I been born 100 years before my time, in my grandfather's shtetl. I imagined a conversation that I could possibly hold with a gay ancestor. That was the seed for the book.
Is Yankl modeled after you?
Yankl's character could have been mine if I had grown up in the shtetl. As I wrote in the Epilogue, my life mirrored his in several respects - the loneliness, the alienation, the pressure to marry, leaving home and having a good ear for music. So, yes, my life is a reflection of his. The major difference is the historical and social environment.
What was your favorite part to write? What was the hardest?
The favorite part and the hardest part were one and the same. I became emotionally involved with my characters, so although I never experienced the joys (and tribulations) of parenthood - although I would have, had I been born 20 years later - the most emotional episode in writing the book occurred when Leah and Mendl Bradawka realized that they had lost their son. For me, all the repercussions of ignorance and intolerance are contained in that scene.
Do you think attitudes have changed enough since Yankl's time?
Of course, attitudes have changed. In my experience, whenever I have been honest about my sexual orientation I have earned respect. Yet there remains a subtle form of discrimination: exclusion at the social level. That does not apply to everyone, but I have sensed it among some people. All the more praise is due to those enlightened souls who have come to accept that sexual orientation is no more than a variant in the human condition. And I cannot fail to add that attitudes are gradually changing thanks to the open minds of the judges and legislators who granted equal rights to homosexuals. There are always some groups of people whom we like less than others. So I think attitudes can never change enough.
What do you hope that people will take away from reading the book?
In a word, understanding. Understanding that trying to impose change upon something as basic as sexual orientation can only lead to pain, sorrow and disaster. I hope that, in turn, that will lead to acceptance of the fact that we are all, regardless of sexual orientation, created in the image of God.
Do you have plans to write another book?
Rather than plans, I have the ambition to write another book. I am still mulling over the subject I want to treat.
Where can I learn more about this subject? What other books do you recommend?
From the Jewish point of view, I would recommend the award-winning film documentary Trembling Before G-d directed by Sandi Simcha Dubowski. There is also one book I would recommend, although I am sure that there are others: Wrestling with God & Men by Rabbi Steven Greenberg, published by the University of Wisconsin Press.