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10 August 2010



(katz asked me to post this email, so here’s the clarifying info: lisa, my wife, is a rabbi like her brother, larry. she taught at the univ of iowa while getting her ph.d. there. ‘bcc’ is beth chayim chadashim in los angeles, the first queer shul, where she’s been rabbi since 1994.)

grace paley has been a favorite of lisa's forever. she and larry met grace in 1976 in VT, next to hanover where larry was newly the rabbi at dartmouth (the first they'd ever hired). when lisa and larry saw an announcement that grace paley would be at a political meeting at someone's house, they decided to go meet her. but they hadn't read any of her work so went to the library the day before and got both of her books out. they each started one and after one story had to switch books saying 'read this! read this!' that continued for the whole evening and they have been lifelong fans ever since. lisa tells me that at the meeting, grace was a hilarious, gum-cracking personage, who halfway thru the evening jumped up and said 'i have to leave because i didn't mean to come in the first place,' and rushed out the door.
after that night, grace and larry saw each other frequently and over time became quite close. at a reading when 'leaning forward' came out she even dedicated a poem to him (probably 'I cannot keep my mind on Jerusalem.')
lisa would see grace occasionally, like in iowa city when she read and taught there (early 80s) and at a tikkun conference in nyc when we lived there (early 90s). whenever lisa’d remind her that larry was her brother, grace would always say 'i love larry edwards!' those punctuations of grace in her life are vivid in lisa's memory.
lisa always taught grace paley's work at iowa, where grace's was the first new york accented voice many students had ever read. lisa had a cassette of grace reading in her gum-cracking new york jew voice, which quite a few students just couldn't get. lisa always taught 'the loudest voice' and now reads it aloud at bcc every year at hanukkah/xmas as her drash. 'conversations with my father,' 'living' and 'debts' were other beloved stories she taught.
'later that same day' was one of the first gifts lisa gave me, about which she says 'if you hadn't liked her i don't think we'd be together now.' inside the gift book was her note, 'since you shared some of your grace with me, i thought i'd share some of mine with you.'
the last story in that book has an incredible episode between faith and her lesbian friend cassie--cassie reprimands faith for having forgotten all these years to include her. "But I mean you've just omitted me from the other stories and I was there. In the restaurant and the train, right there. Where is Cassie? Where is my life? It's been women and men, women and men, fucking, fucking. Goddamnit, where the hell is my woman and woman, woman-loving life in all this? And it's not even sensible, because we are friends, we work together, you even care about me at least as much as you do Ruthy and Louise and Ann. You let them in all the time; it's really strange, why have you left me out of everybody's life?" lisa was coming out then and it really affected her.

katz, thanks for telling us about the film in your excellent review. we look forward with great pleasure to seeing it.

Sue Katz

This whole commentary is more interesting than my review itself - and a wonderful addition to seeing the documentary. Thanks dear Tracy for agreeing to put it up here - and thank Lisa and Larry for giving us all this most intimate glimpse into Grace's life.

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