Friday, May 23, 2008

Dumbo Books Addresses Concerns and Rumors About WHO WILL KISS THE PIG?: SEX STORIES FOR TEENS in the Florida Jewish Community

It has come to our attention that nasty rumors are being spread by email to members of the Florida Jewish community about Richard Grayson’s new book, Who Will Kiss the Pig?: Sex Stories for Teens.

More specifically, we have heard that Florida Jews are denouncing the book and its author for being very anti-Semitic and for portraying teenage Jews, in particular those in South Florida, as extremely promiscuous.

These rumors are lies. We don’t know how they started. Our book is not very anti-Semitic.

Yes, it is true that Richard Grayson’s first story collection, published in 1979, was called With Hitler in New York and had a title story in which the German dictator visits Brooklyn and has a lot of fun with his young Jewish friends listening to dirty stories on the Brighton Beach boardwalk, smoking marijuana on a Belt Parkway overpass, and eating Chinese food on Montague Street in the Heights.

But the Judaic studies scholar Alvin H. Rosenfeld, in his 1984 book Imagining Hitler (Indiana University Press) discussed “With Hitler in New York” in detail, as did his son Gavriel D Rosenfeld, another scholar, in his 2005 book The World Hitler Never Made (Cambridge University Press) and both professors explained that while the story might be offensive, no disrespect to Jews was intended.

Also, some South Florida rabbis have noted that Dumbo Books’ release of Richard Grayson’s Highly Irregular Stories contained a reprint of his infamous 1982 chapbook, Eating at Arby’s: The South Florida Stories that has been called anti-Semitic in its portrayal of elderly residents of Century Village, snowbirds, “condo commandos,” and diners at the Rascal House “early bird special.”

We can only reply that the book was favorably reviewed by a Jewish Miami University (of Ohio) professor, Mark Bernheim, in Israel Today and that a Jewish novelist, Ivan Gold, writing in The New York Times Book Review, said Eating at Arby’s: The South Florida Stories was “equidistant between Hemingway and Dick and Jane.” Does that sound anti-Semitic to you?

Richard Grayson did in fact have a bris on June 11, 1951 at Beth-El (now Brookdale) Hospital in Brownsville; a bar mitzvah ceremony on May 23, 1964 at the Flatbush Park Jewish Center (a siddur presented by the temple’s Sisterhood will prove this); and a bar mitzvah reception the following Saturday, May 30, 1964 at the Deauville Beach Club (now United Artists Sheepshead Bay Theatre) on beautiful Gerritsen Beach, with performances by the Israeli team of Daniel & Dmitri and also Joe Vega & the Cha Cha Aces. The orchestra was led by Richard's great-great-uncle Dave Tarras, the famous klezmer clarinetist. And there was plenty of stuffed derma and a Viennese table!

As far as Jew-on-Jew teenage sex in Who Will Kiss the Pig?, yes, we admit there is plenty of it. But there is a lot of it in real life too, and Richard Grayson knows this. During the 2005-2006 school year, he taught English at the Jess Schwartz Jewish Community High School in Phoenix and observed a lot of sexy behavior on the part of students. Fortunately, this problem was dealt with by the school’s shiksa headmistress, noted educator Dr. Janice Johnson.

And in fact, one of the stories in the book notes that many Jewish teenagers do NOT partake in sexual activity. On page 122, in the story “Talking to a Stranger,” there is this passage:
Joshua and I are at the UN, trying to film a demonstration protesting an Arab massacre of Israeli schoolchildren. Joshua has to hand in a final for his Cinematography course and figures the UN demonstration might be interesting.

There are a lot of yarmulkes and girls wearing stockings. Perhaps Sidney is somewhere in the crowd.

Joshua says all Jewish girls are ugly. He says it softly because there are Jewish girls crowding us from all sides. He leans over to me and whispers, “If these were WASPs, man, we’d be having a fucking orgy.”

So there.

Finally, there is the matter of pig-kissing in the title story and in one other one. It is true that although that the pigs involved are not kosher and the guys who want to or are forced to kiss them are Jewish, the depiction was not meant to offend anyone who follows the kosher dietary laws. The fact that on page 1 a character named Yassir is the one making the Jewish guy kiss the pig, is in no way a criticism of Zionism. After all, on page 17, the mother of the girl that Jonathan has gotten pregnant makes it quite clear to him that Muslims also find pigs unclean.

Any rabbi or Jewish official wanting confirmation can write us at and we will supply you with a PDF of Who Will Kiss the Pig?: Sex Stories for Teens.

Finally, we would like to acknowledge that not all South Florida rabbis have denounced Dumbo Books and Richard Grayson. Some South Florida rabbis are great, like Richard’s first cousin once removed, Rabbi Donald Crain, now in Boca in retirement from spiritual leadership of his congregation in Utica, New York. (Rabbi Crain is the son of Richard’s great-uncle Irving Cohen, brother to his Grandma Sylvia, who was a noted South Florida Jewish celebrity in her time.)

So now that we’ve cleared it up that our new book of teen sex stories is not a “shonda” or “bad for the Jews,” we envision great support for Dumbo Books in the Florida Jewish community! Isn’t life wonderful!

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