Review: The New Queer Conscience

THe New Queer Conscience by Adam Eli, illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky

Category: Young Adult
Reviewer: Sylvie Shaffer

Adam Eli packs an incredible number of powerful ideas and questions into a pocket-sized package. His central argument, that all Queer folks ( and their allies) are responsible for all LGBTQIAA+ folks, is a reframing of the Talmudic idea that all Jews are commanded to have each others’ backs: “Kol yisrael arevim zeh baZeh” (all of the people of Israel are responsible for each other.) His language is clear, compelling, and accessible, with a tone that lands halfway between “chat over a latte” and “high school debate club” - but in the best possible way. Eli shares personal reflections on his own identify formation, privilege, and activism as a white, queer Jew speaks to teen readers however they self-identify.

The book is a strong contender for the Sydney Taylor Book Award. It would also be an unconventional selection: the winning books in the Teen or Older Reader categories have long-trended towards Historical Fiction, or on occasion, narrative nonfiction (often Holocaust or Holocaust-adjacent.) If the Real Committee were to select Adam Eli’s debut, which meets the criteria with regards to literary merit and authentic and accurate Jewish content, it would bring welcome attention to Eli’s call to action and activism, broadening the book’s audience. Additionally, it would highlight, celebrate, and validate the Queer Jewish experience. Research has long-shown that one in ten people identify somewhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Said another way: one in every minyan.

Are you interested in reviewing books for The Sydney Taylor Shmooze? Click here!

Reviewer Sylvie Shaffer is the preK-8 librarian at the Capitol Hill Day School in Washington, DC and holds dual masters degrees in Library Science and Children's Literature from Simmons University. Sylvie served on AJL's 2019 and 2020 Sydney Taylor Book Awards, and also on ALSC's 2018 Geisel Committee. You can find her online at