The Michigan Daily - Friday, March 27,1992- Page 9
Lev Raphael confronts homophobia in fiction
by Rona Kobell
James Baldwin once wrote that
Americans don't understand the ter-
rible things in life. As a first-genera-
tion American writer Lev Raphael
not only understands terror, he chan-
nels it into the reader's mind, com-
municating the horror of alienation.
In his most famous collection of
short stories, Dancing on Tisha
B'av, Raphael's characters express
their agony as popular culture, main-
stream religion, and contemporary
society isolate them because of their
religion and sexual orientation.
The themes in Dancing on Tisha
B'av are drawn from Raphael's life
as a gay Jewish writer whose parents
were Holocaust survivors. Although
Raphael acknowledges that his char-
acterizations stem from his own in-
sights, his book is not completely au-
Instead of restating his personal
experience, he synthesizes ideas
from it and incorporates new inter-
pretations of stereotypes and events.
"Stories are composites, and cha-
racters are often autobiographical in
ways that are not so obvious," Ra-
phael explains. "An idea is like a
magnet, and you never know what
will be attracted to it."
Raphael's collection takes its title
from a scene in the first short story,
where Nat, an Orthodox Jew, cam-
ouflages his homosexuality for fear
of becoming a social pariah. When
his congregation's members learn
that such a devoted leader in the
prayer service is gay, they condemn
both him and his lifestyle.
Nat is no longer permitted to
touch the Torah, and the synagogue
wishes that he would not return. Nat
needs a vehicle for expressing his
rage that one part of his identity
could adamantly reject the other.
Nat lashes back by dancing on
Tisha B'av, the solemn day of fast-
ing and remembrance in commemo-
ration of the desecration of the Se-
cond Temple in Jerusalem.
Raphael synthesizes the serious-
ness of isolation from the commu-
nity with examples of anti-semitism
Raphael's characters are also
candid about emotions that plague
men and women of all religions and
orientations. When one character ex-
periences doubts about his partner,
he asks himself a myriad of ques-
tions that most people have heard
"Did I love him? Was I stuck
with Howard because I was really
afraid to be involved with someone
my own age, someone I could have a
future with? Was I like the women
who consistently sleep with married
men, afraid of commitment even
when they gripe about not being able
to find it?"
Questions like these not only
shatter the common stereotype that
gay men are solely sexual beings
consumed with image and phjsique,
but also demonstrate that doubts and
feelings in any type of relationship
are often similar.
Raphael's dual identity as a gay
male and an observant Jew in a
Western culture which he calls "his-
torically anti-semitic and homopho-
bic" has prompted him to write other
anthologies and articles based on his
His short fiction has been pub-
lished in several magazines, includ-
ing Commentary, Redbook, Mid-
stream, and numerous Jewish pu-
He is also the author of Edith
Wharton's Prisoners of Shame and
has co-authored three psycho-educa-
tional books entitled The Dynamics
of Power: Fighting Shame and
Building Self Esteem, Stick Up for
Yourself, and A Teacher's Guide to
Stick Up for Yourself. His long list
of awards include the 1990 Lambda
Book Award for Dancing on Tisha
B'av, the Harvey Swados Fiction
Prize, and the Reed Smith Fiction
Raphael's most common theme is
the shame of exposure within a com-
munity. "I write about the dynamics
and impact of shame. All characters
who are afraid of exposure really
deal with shame, which is connected
to the internalization of anti-se-
mitism and homophobia in society,"
He says he believes that the "co-
ming out" process for gay men in the
Jewish community is "doubly-
loaded and problematic because, like
any other minority, Jews are hyper-
conscious of what others think.
Many congregations would rather
not forthrightly deal with lesbians
and gays in their midst."
Through his fiction, Lev Raphael
confronts Jewish and homosexual
Tisha B'av? "Never," Raphael states
emphatically. "That's just like going
to synagogue on Yom Kippur (the
'I write about the dynamics and impact of
shame. All characters who are afraid of
exposure really deal with shame, which is
connected to the internalization of anti-
semitism and homophobia in society.'
self-hate by exposing it in his char-
acters. But would he himself ever
desecrate one part of his identity be-
cause it clashed with the other?
Would he, like his character Nat,
ever dance on the sacred day of
day of atonement on which Jews
fast) and eating Twinkies."
LEV RAPHAEL will read from his
fiction at 9:15 p.m., tonight at Hillel.
Admission is free.
Amazin' Blue keeps
by Darcy Lockman
and vivid sex scenes. He is never
coy when describing erotic encoun-
ters between two male bodies. One
character after another engages the
reader with lines like, "I rolled him
over, pulled his tight cheeks apart,
thrusting my head down to seriously
lick and probe as if he were a wo-
. Explicit scenes such as that one
pervade the collection, and Raphael
sees no reason why he should be
questioned about such frankness. "I
see my characters as passionate as
opposed to explicit," Raphael ar-
gues. "If I were a straight writer, the
question would not even come up."
D on't even try to talk to any of the singers in
Amazin' Blue tonight. Do not misunderstand, it's not
like they'll all be in really bad moods or something.
It's just that after this evening's Vocal Blowout, no
one in the twelve member a cappella group will have
much of a voice to speak to you with.
"After two hours of singing, you pretty much
don't talk. Our voices get strained," says group,
member Scott Adler.
But the strain on their vocal chords is well worth it
to the Amazin' Blue entertainers, who have as much
fun as the audience when they do their shows. "We
have a lot of fun on stage as a group. We dance
around a lot, and do little comedic skits and
humorous songs," says junior Ainsley Beebe.
Comedy might not be the first thing a concertgoer
expects when attending an a cappella concert. It's just
this surprise element that keeps the ' audience
laughing. "If we called ourselves a comedy group,
people might not think we were funny. But since we
call ourselves a singing group, people aren't
expecting anything but music. They're surprised and
amused when there is," explains Adler.
Member Carrie Simpson says, "We don't do a
chorus concert. I think people hear that we're an a
cappella group and expect us to do fourteenth-century
Gregorian chants or something."
So, anyone who goes to tonight's show expecting
this type of age-old moaning will probably be disap-
pointed with the Amazin' Blue's musical selection.
pushing the limits
While the group's numbers range from pop to jazz to
"fifties doo-wop stuff," sacred chants are not in their
repertoire, although it very well could be. "For us,
there are no boundaries for what we can do. That's
the whole attitude of our group. There are no limits,"
A group that knows no boundaries can really go
far, and Amazin' Blue did just that over Spring
Break, travelling throughout the East Coast,
performing at schools such as MIT, Wesleyan, and
Brandeis. "Touring's always great because we get a
chance to meet other a cappella groups and get new
ideas from them," says group member Karl
On their own tour, and joining Amazin' Blue
tonight, will be Oberlin College's all-male ensemble,
The Obertones. Like Amazin' Blue, The Obertones
are an a cappella group, albeit a more traditional one.
"They tend to stay in set formation while they sing,
whereas we dance around a lot on stage. They're cur-
rently touring the Midwest, and were really excellent
when I heard them," says Adler.
"The way I see it, there's no better deal in Ann
Arbor this weekend. For four dollars, it's an evening
of music and comedy, and a touring group you may
never again get the chance to see. And anyway, the
game's not on until 10:45."
AMAZIN' BLUE along with THE OBERLIN OBER-
TONES sing in UAC's Vocal Blowout tonight at 8
p.m. in Rackham. Tickets are $4 and may be
purchased at the door one hour prior to curtain.
Friday, March 27, Sunday, March 29,
12:00 noon - 1:00 pm 7:00 - 8:00 pm
Angell Hall Aud B
Angell Hall Aud D
God, I hate the Pixies. Butyou've gotta love 'em. Instead of playing the Michigan Theater, they've sold out to the
monster arena tour of the year with U2. In fact, the whole history of the Pixies in Detroit has been, let's say, a
1988: Supporting their brilliant album Surfer Rosa, they played a killer show at the intimate venue, Rick's.
1989: Supporting the still cool album Doolittle, the band electrified St. Andrew's Hall for an hour - and then lead
singer Black Francis (what a pretentious name) threw down his guitar in disgust, complaining of shocks from the
microphone. An angry crowd stormed away. But were they stunning.
1990: Supporting the depressingly mediocre tabloid surf album Bossanova, the Pixies somehow came up with a
slick, devastating 25-song set at the Latin Quarter. Even Kim Deal got to sing. Ah, fulfillment.
1991: Supporting their return-to-blood-and-grunge album Trompe Le Monde, they played a lackluster, (gasp!)
boring set at the Royal Oak Music Theater that only an alternateen could love.
1992: Playing the loudest concert of their career tonight at 8 p.m. before a sold-out crowd of 20,000 that couldn't
care less, the rafters of the Palace of Auburn Hills collapse and kill the band. And we can now go on with our
Dr. Lance Sandelands, Interim Undergraduate Chair
Psychology Undergraduate Office, K-106 West Quad - 764-2580
Spring Pro-Season Sale!
Tents, Sleeping Bags, Hiking Boots,
Packs, Raingear, Sleeping Pads
-Michael John Wilson
Continued from page 8
"You young squirts couldn't
lance a pimple without an electric
vibrating scalpel with automatic
drain and suture," he growls. "All
the skill is going out of surgery ...
Did I ever tell you about the time I
performed an appendectomy with a
rusty sardine can? And once I was
caught short without instrument one
and removed a uterine tumor with
my teeth ..."
Burroughs plays Saturday night,
March 28, in Hillel's Green Au-
ditorium, at 8:30 and 10. Admission
Sale ends 3/31/92
Amazin' Blue- A co-ed a Capella
Comedy Company - A student-
directed and written comedy troupe
that performs once a term and has
travelled to other Big 10 schools.
Impact Dance = For non-dance
majors who have extensive training
in all areas of dance.
M-Flicks - The largest film group
Soph Show- A musical whose
cast consists of first and second
MUSKET - The largest musical
theatre group on campus.
Laughtrack - Featuring student1
comedians and professional
Special Events-Brings exciting
activities to the U of M such as
Mademoiselle, Girbaud Fashion
show...anything you dream up.
Starbound - A campus-wide talent
competition that gives students the
opportunity to perform win prizes,
and gain experience and recognition.
Homecoming - As official University
coordinators of Homecoming, UAC
plans the parade, float contest, pep
rally, and many other campus-wide
Michigras - Brings the festive
atmosphere of Mardi-Gras to U of M.
College Bowl - A competitive quiz-
champions travel to contest during
the winter term.,.
Mini-Courses - Each term, over
30 noncredit course are offered,
ranging from aerobic dance to sign
Northern lights - Brings current
UAC events to North Campus and
creates its own programs specially
suited for the North Campus
Viewpoint - Sponsors a variety of
lectures and forums for discussion,
including Student Soapbox.
Tech Crew - Supplies and
monitors the necessary sound and
lighting equipment for all the
events UAC sponsors.
Ticket Central - Serving all of
ALL TRAVEL PACKS FOR EUROPE
T E N TS
SI ERR A
MarmOt MERRELL- DESIGN
I A* I I NI I l l
We match all prices - including catalogs.