Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bend in the Road ~ First Guidepost

A Guide to a Different World...
My dual novella anthology, BEND IN THE ROAD, from MLR Press takes place in a world so foreign for most readers that it might as well be set in a 'galaxy far, far away...'
So, to help prepare you for your journey, I'll be offering guide posts. Each one focuses on a different part of the world of Aryeh, Dani, Yuval and Tsvi. I hope by the time you reach your destination, you'll want to find out what happened to these four young men in their 'different world'.
The Blurb:
BEND IN THE ROAD, set in Eastern Europe in the 1880s, introduces us to two couples that find safe havens in the insular world of a traveling Yiddish theater troupe.
IN THE LION'S DEN brings us Daniel Bercovich, a young man in the first throes of finding his identity. Can the man he comes to love accept a new side to him?
Yuval Smolenski finds more than the inspiration for his music, he finds something everlasting in FROM STAGE TO STAGE. These Jewish men in love must deal not only with the stigma of that love but also fear the rise of anti-Semitism. Can their love survive all the forces that surround them?
The Titles:

I had the names for Aryeh and Dani before the title for the story. I was looking for a strong name for my older hero and came up with Aryeh very quickly. Aryeh means 'lion' in Hebrew and I've always loved the name. Daniel, for my younger man, is also one of my favorite names. It means 'G-d is my judge'. This too seemed fitting since for these men, G-d is the only judge who matters. It was only after I put the two names together and then called Aryeh 'Lionel', an English version of his name, that I realized I had the perfect title for their story from the biblical tale of the Prophet Daniel.
Yuval and Tsvi's story took its inspiration from several sources, primarily folk songs, popular music, liturgical music, poems and fairy tales. Yuval's name appears in the Bible in Genesis where he is known as the 'ancestor of all who play the lyre and the pipe' - a sort of patron of musicians and yes, the name does have a shared root in the word 'jubilee'.
Tsvi's name also comes from the Bible, this time from the second book of Samuel that includes the beautiful lament of King David for the deaths of Jonathan and Saul. The word used to describe Jonathan is "ha-tsvi", translated as 'the beauty', but it also is the word for "gazelle". Tsvi is a very popular name in Israel.
To some scholars, the story of the love between David and Jonathan is something more than comradely, so the name, Tsvi, fit my character perfectly. I referred to this portion of scriptures and other passages in Yuval and Tsvi's story and the names of the pivotal characters revolve around their Biblical source.
The story's title is taken from a Yiddish folk tune my mother used to sing called, "The Singer". The verse says, "The singer travels from town to town and 'from stage to stage'" - perfect for members of a traveling Yiddish theater troupe.
I found my inspiration for the anthology's title from several sources.
One of my favorite poets is Robert Frost. I've always loved a poem of his called "The Road Not Taken". It came to mind immediately because these men made choices to travel down different paths not only in their relationships, but also the decisions they made about the direction their lives would take.
At the time I wrote IN THE LION'S DEN, I had just seen "The Bubble", a gay Israeli movie and in the film there's a scene in a theater where the play "Bent" is being performed in Hebrew. "Bent" takes place during WWII and refers to the gay community during the Holocaust. I had seen this play years ago and seeing it performed again in Hebrew in the film brought back the initial impact.
And last, and perhaps the most personal, I've found many blogs sharing the gay Jewish experience and a phrase from one of those blogs stayed with me. It referred to the bend in the road not being the end of the journey.
For Aryeh, Dani, Yuval and Tsvi the bend in the road was not the end of their journey.


K. Z. Snow said...

This really sounds fascinating, Jeanne -- a very rich world. I so hope it does well for you!

Jeanne said...

Thanks, KZ, me, too!

Kayelle Allen said...

I enjoyed seeing the background of the names and hearing how you came to use them. Tsvi was the name of a Jewish man who converted to Christianity back in the late 40s. Since he lived in Israel, he faced much discrimination, especially at the end of the war.

He later became a missionary for an American Board, and I read his biography while I was pregnant with my youngest son. Turns out that Tsvi's given name was Joel as a child. In the monthly newsletter I got, there was a plea to send money for Hebrew Bibles, and I very much wanted to do that. However, my husband and were expecting a third child and I wasn't able to work. So I prayed that if money came to me, personally, that was from a completely unexpected source, I would send it.

Less than a week letter I received a letter from a missionary friend I'd made when I lived in California. I had supported her teaching ministry for years. So when I opened the letter and a $100 check fell in my lap, I knew this was the money I'd prayed for. I certainly never expected a missionary to send *me* money (she had heard I was pregnant) and the check was addressed to me. She wrote that she had felt strongly impressed to send me the money, but didn't know why.

Long story short, I mailed Tsvi / Joel the check, and decided that if we had a boy, we would name him Joel. My son Joel will be 28 this year, but I'll never forget that magical moment when I realized my prayer had been answered.

When I wrote back to my missionary friend and told her, she wrote back that Joel was definitely on G-d's mind, because she too had sent him money for the same thing.

I've lost touch of both friends over the years, but my love for the chosen people has never faltered. I so enjoy reading your stories, Jeanne, because people of all faiths should be free to love as they wish. I do not believe that our Heavenly Father would give us love, but deny it because it's not for the right person.

I really like the Bend in the Road meaning it's not the end of the journey also!

I hope you don't mind my sharing this experience. The name Tsvi is beloved to me, and I wanted to tell you the story.

Jeanne said...

Not at all.
Right now, when things have been very tough for us, the activities director at the Catholic nursing home has been like a guardian angel for us. They put us up last winter when we were without electricity for several days and every time a client has failed to pay us on a timely basis, Mary calls up and has an unexpected program that she needs a replacement to sing. I literally got off the phone the other day with another client who said the check would be late and Mary called while I was on the phone to ask if I could come at the last minute to fill in.
My dh now believes me when I say my grandmother and my folks are watching out for us from above.
Why them?
Because they were throughout their lives the most beloved folks around by folks of every race, creed and religion. I know *their* good deeds are drawing us the help we need.
And my grandmother's name was Mary

Marty Rayne said...

So much thought went behind your character's names, Jeanne. And I have to agree that they truly fit in the world/situations that you've created. Definitely a must buy. :D
Kayelle, your story is very touching. Prayer is a powerful thing and works. :)

Jeanne said...

Thanks, Marty
I'm a great believer in the power of names and words.

Kristin said...

Even after reading the stories as I have finding out these little details is interesting. I can't wait to find out how much others love the boys.
Aloha, Kris

Savanna Kougar said...

Jeanne, that is a new world for me. Your stories sound perfect for the soul and the heart. And it was fascinating to learn what went into your stories.
Kayelle, what a wonderful beautiful experience.

Blessings to you, Jeanne.
And to you, Kayelle.

Jeanne said...

Thanks, guys
What made this an even more wonderful writing experience for me was that I also learned new things. There were so many instances where I felt like I was guided along the journey with my guys.
And you should see the cover!