For Jewish Ideas Daily, a new aggregator of Jewish things from around the web, I will be surveying the history of American Jewish fiction, one book at a time, from the last decade of the nineteenth century to the present.
The series gets going this morning with my review of Other Things Being Equal, a romance of intermarriage by Emma Wolf. Published in 1892 not by a Jewish house but by a mainstream trade publisher—A. C. McClurg of Chicago—Wolf’s was the the first novel written by an American Jew on a Jewish subject that was intended for an interreligious audience.
Wolf’s theme is that, since Jews and Christians “all dance and talk alike,” since they receive “the same schooling, speak the same language, read the same books, are surrounded by the same elements of home refinement,” there is no meaningful difference between them that prevents love and intermarriage.
What will probably strike contemporary readers the hardest is Wolf’s hostility toward traditional Jewish views on intermarriage. The editor of American Jewess, a magazine which described itself as the only one in the world “devoted to the interests of Jewish women,” clearly understood this as her novel’s claim to originality:
Other titles to be reviewed in the series will be selected from this complete-as-I-can-make-it list of American Jewish fiction from 1892 to 1948.