Reviews

Paper Is White, by Hilary Zaid

literallymya's review against another edition

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4.0

a sweet, moving story about love, loss, and the meaning of history.

lindick's review against another edition

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4.0

I really liked this book. It’s a multi-layered story of a 20-something woman living in the Bay Area in the 90s, preparing to marry her girlfriend while grappling with her Jewish identity, history, and her relationship with her family. I’m a Jewish lesbian in my 20s from San Francisco, so needless to say I found it very relatable!

I bought this ages ago and put off reading it because I thought it would be super heavy, as the main character works at a Holocaust oral history non-profit and it’s a lot about what late 20th century Jews owe survivors. But it ended up being super interesting and not as heavy as I was expecting, although it was heartbreaking at times and I did cry. As a cultural Jew with minimal religious education, I learned a lot and really connected to the intense conflicting feelings of the protagonist. And the current-day wedding storyline added some much-needed levity and romance (even as it had its own drama).

The writing can be intense and sort of over-the-top, which mostly felt very earned (you basically can’t be *too* evocative when telling a Holocaust survivor’s story), but there were times when I was iffy on it. Especially the descriptions of the one Asian character (she’s half-Chinese half-Indonesian, and she’s described as having “hair the color of lava rock and fierce, dark eyes the burning black of a Javanese god of love or war” and showing up “smooth and prescient as a Jakarta dukun summoning a pain-relieving charm”) were just like....what?? I think the point was the narrator was having doubts about committing for life to her fiancé and was putting all this weird sexualized description onto a hot coworker as a distraction? But it felt exoticized/fetishized and awkward.

Aside from that one page, and not fully connecting with the protagonist’s relationship with her grandmother, I really enjoyed reading this, and found it engrossing, moving, interesting, and relatable.

lesbianmerle's review against another edition

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5.0

This has to be one of the most complete, multilayered stories I've ever read. The grace with which we're introduced to the characters and settings allows for not a single dull moment in this book. The exploration of early-2000's gay marriage was very interesting to me. The characters feel truly alive, not bound to a single straight-line plot, but growing and breathing even in the paragraphs where they are not mentioned. Remarkable and thought-provoking!

solskog123's review

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4.0

a beautiful book! i adored the focus on jewish & lesbian identity. some of the characters felt a bit unnecessary and unbelievable (some of the plot points did too!) but i loved the way this book explored love, grief and history. the lesbian friendships and relationships felt very real to me: they made me reflect on my own community. i loved it. <3
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