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Picks by T.I. Miami (TM) and Elizabeth Costello (EC).

Generation J

Generation J
By Lisa Schiffman, Harper, 166 pages, $18

In Generation J, local writer and web designer Lisa Schiffman tries to discover what it means to be Jewish in America today. Raised in a secular Jewish home, Schiffman longs to decipher the code of culture, religion and ethnicity that forms a "white noise" at the back of her consciousness. An anthropologist by training, she decides to take an anthropologist's view of her own heritage. As she visits synagogues and reads the Talmud, she finds that the very fact of her search connects her to a long tradition of seekers. Schiffman has an engaging and chatty writing style. She artfully raises universal questions in a particular and personal fashion. Generation J is a light read about the big questions that thinking people, Jews and non-Jews, have been asking since the beginning of asking. (EC)

Virgins, Guerrillas & Locas

Virgins, Guerrillas & Locas: Gay Latinos Writing About Love
Edited by Jaime Cortez, Cleis Press, 200 pages, $14.95

Combing various parts of the Latin community--Puerto Ricans, Colombians, Mexicans and Chicanos--these stories range from prepubescent humor (Al Lujan's "Strong Arms") along to first love and puberty (James Cañon's "My Lessons With Felipe") and maturity/acceptance of one's self ("Sun to Sun," by the editor). The cover's quasi-religious painted image of a Latin man in a wedding veil is clearly selling to people of color. The stories, however, are universal--plugging in to one's own experiences afterward is irresistible. Lujan's bizarre memoir, a recollection of absolute blood fidelity to a molded plastic Hasbro toy, exemplifies how this anthology bends and confounds expectations. The introduction somewhat lames the book from the outset--best to skip it. It seems to me a vehicle to sell a graspable brown-ness to white liberals; mostly it makes shaky parallels between Latinos and blacks and in the process forces them too together. They are far too different for comparison. If you dodge the intro, you'll find the real sabor in diversity. (TM)

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From the December 20, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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