THE BOY’S OWN MANUAL TO BEING A PROPER JEW
By Eli Glasman
Reviewed by Graeme Aitken
This debut gay themed Australian novel has a great deal to recommend it. Although it’s aimed primarily at young adult readers, older readers will also find it a substantial read. This is primarily due it’s setting in the Melbourne Jewish Orthodox community which provides a fascinating backdrop. Many readers are likely to learn a great deal about the strict cultural traditions and rules Orthodox Jews are supposed to adhere to. When the book opens, teenager Yossi is trying to rid himself of his gay feelings by following the advice of a Rabbi advocating conversion therapy on the internet. It’s not working. But Yossi’s perspective begins to change when he encounters Josh, a new student at his school. Josh is not only very haphazard in his religious devotion − he’s also nonchalant about being attracted to guys. This not only provokes a U-turn in Yossi’s sexual awakening but also charges an attraction to Josh.
The novel is almost perfectly judged and executed. The only qualm is that Yossi’s self-confidence with his sexuality develops too fast, and although it provides a lovely climactic scene for the book, it’s not entirely realistic. This contrasts with the rest of the book, and in particular with the scene where Yossi comes out to sister and father − their dispiriting initial reaction is spot-on. Just as Jeanette Winterson provided a very unique view of an unusual coming of age in her first novel Oranges are not the Only Fruit, Eli Glasman has achieved something similar by tapping creatively into his experiences.