mother can you notIntroducing your parents or grandparents or even cousins or siblings to any new form of social media means that there is going to be a learning curve where mistakes are made and ridiculous things said. We’ve all been there. Before you bridge the social media gap however, there is one important step that needs to happen: text messaging. Author Kate Siegel’s mother is the queen of off-the-wall text messages, so much so that Kate decided to broadcast their most ridiculous conversations all over Instagram for everyone to see. (Want to follow their antics? Check out @crazyjewishmom on Instagram!)

Mother, Can you NOT? : And you thought your mother was crazy… follows Kate’s Siegel’s decision to broadcast her and her mother’s text messages online and the crazy journey it proved to be for her. This book is chock full of anecdotes featuring Kate’s mom and the conversation that she has with her on a daily basis.

Kate’s mother is the classic helicopter parent and you can even go as far as to call her a drone parent, which Kate certainly does. Kate’s mom is a hovering Jewish mother who only wants the best for her daughter and the best just happens to be married to a wealthy Jewish doctor and pregnant with his many children. Never mind the fact that for a long time, Kate was single and her boyfriends weren’t even Jewish. These are just unnecessary obstacles in Kate’s life that her mother knows all the solutions for: hanging out with the Princeton rabbi, going out even when you don’t want to, talking to a new doctor about sex when your mom is right in the room, etc. All perfectly normal things. This book is a very humorous and hilarious read chronicling the many adventures that Kate and her mother find themselves on and the many different ways all of our mother go on to help better their children’s lives even if their children’s don’t even ask for the help.

unterzakhnUnterzakhn (yiddish for ‘underthings’) by Leela Corman tells the story of Jewish twin sisters at the start of the 20th century in New York City.  Esther and Fanya’s stories are told in graphic novel form, spanning more than a decade from childhood through adulthood, with black and white illustrations reminiscent of Russian folk art. The sisters make decidedly different decisions in their lives, but they both chose career paths outside of community and family expectations of them and drift apart from one another (forcefully in one scene).

Fanya starts this story when she finds a woman bleeding in the street and is instructed to go find the “lady doctor”.  This encounter brings her to Bronia, a feminist obstetrician who performs illegal abortions, and convinces Fanya’s mother to let Bronia teach Fanya to read.  Fanya then begins to apprentice for Bronia, and adapts to the strident expectations of her teacher.  While her sister is learning to work as an obstetrician, Esther begins working at the local burlesque theater and brothel — running errands and cleaning up.  As she grows toward adulthood, her work changes and she loses her family in the process.

This is a quick, but in no way a light read.  The writing and the illustrations show a lot of darkness and pain.  The sisters always seem better when they’re together, showing the quick wit and love that seems to be reserved for each other. I had a difficult time putting this book down, because Corman made it easy to care about Fanya and Esther.  This is a good read for fans of David Small’s Stitches or anything by Charles Burns.