Review: Salt & Honey

Salt & Honey: Jewish Teens on Feminism, Creativity, & Tradition

Anthology edited by Elizabeth Mandel with JGirls Magazine, illustrations contributed by teen artists and photographers

Behrman House & JGirls Magazine, 2022

Category: Young Adult
Reviewer: Eva L. Weiss
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This kaleidoscopic anthology brings to life authentic voices of American teens (ages 13-19) who explore their lives, emotions and coming of age through the prism of their identity as Jews. They express themselves through essays, poetry, illustrations and photographs. If the thematic division of the six chapters is a bit blurry, the overarching motif is unmistakable. This collection is a jubilant anthem to diversity and inclusion, written by "self-identifying Jewish girls, young women and nonbinary teens." Teens are also editors of their contributions, drawn from JGirls magazine. A teen with cerebral palsy matter-of-factly shares the accommodations needed to celebrate her bat mitzvah. A young woman who was adopted from China at fourteen months asserts "Being Asian is a part of me, but being Jewish is a bigger part." Other teens express a dizzying array of perspectives about the mixed ethnic heritages that are their birthright. There are sensitive accounts by queer teens about their quest for pride as Jews, including a transgender young woman who describes her return to the tefillin she first donned as a bar mitzvah boy. There are stories of personal struggles and revelations in which Jewish identity has significance, even when it first seems tangential. In "Half Mishpocha," a teen shares her encounter with half-siblings she meets through a registry of children conceived through sperm donors: "Most of us were Jewish, only children with lesbian parents. We understood each other's families; we got each other's jokes." This collection is often compelling and always unfiltered.

This book squarely meets the Sydney Taylor Book Award criteria. It is an anthology of stories of adolescence purposefully chosen to reflect the confluence between contemporary teen experiences and perceptions of Jewish identity. It will be a comfortable choice for readers in sync with the ethos of the editor, who gives voice to the intention to to tell the stories of young people who are "so often misunderstood, airbrushed, or flat-out ignored." Fair warning needs to be given to conservative readers who will find themselves on ideological shores remote from their traditionalist values. These stories reflect a distinctive American-Jewish narrative. Several contributors speak of their Sephardic roots, and the editors give homage to Jewish traditions of the East. But at heart, you will encounter teens coming of age in the thick of twenty-first century American culture.

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Reviewer Eva L. Weiss is a writer, editor, and translator. She was born in New York City and worked in the publishing industry there before making her home in Israel. She is the author of the children's book I Am Israeli (Mitchell-Lane, 2016). She writes about culture and is an instructor in the editing program at David Yellin College in Jerusalem.


  1. Wow! This book sounds amazing and so important. Thanks for this review, Eva and to the girls who shared their stories.


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