Grace Aguilar: Selected Writings

Grace Aguilar: Selected Writings - Grace Aguilar Michael Galchinsky has put together a very interesting and well-edited selection of shorter writings (and a few excerpts) of Jewish-English novelist and religious writer Grace Aguilar. He's chosen chiefly those writings which touched on Jewish questions and were intended for Jewish audiences, partly (I think) because those are less likely to be available to a general readership. Indeed, the one Aguilar work I had read before was her Scottish romance, "Days of Bruce", and the only other work that was available to me on the library shelf was "Woman's Friendship", which was deliberately kept clear of specifically Jewish (although not religious) references, so as to appeal to the Christian female readers in England. So this collection, even without its valuable notes and contextual documents, would have given a much stronger sense of the real Grace Aguilar.

Not a feminist in any sense that would be recognized today (she was a strong proponent of the "divided spheres" model, although she was never particularly domestic herself), Aguilar nonetheless wrote strongly about the need for female education, and for Jewish women, religious education. She argued, probably correctly, that where the Jews were in the minority, mothers were an early and extremely important source of both religious and cultural identity. She was very much aware that young Jewish women were perceived as a "weak link" and easily convertible by Christian evangelism, and some of her fiction was spurred by the impulse to portray Jewish romantic heroines who did not abjure their faith in favour of a "happy ending" with a Christian man.

The disdainful attitude of her Jewish male contemporaries was, alas, both painful and predictable.

I found this a good read, and will have it in mind if I should revisit "Ivanhoe".