Oksman, Tahneer. “How Come Boys Get to Keep Their Noses: Women and Jewish American Identity in Contemporary Graphic Memoirs”, Columbia University Press, 2016.
The Jewish Self in the Postmodern World
I must begin my saying that just the title of this book has whetted my appetite even before I read what was written on the cover. It was basically my high school and college years that were the period of “The Nose Job”. I have often wondered if the nose jobs that were performed then have mutated into our anatomy because we do not see nose jobs like we did once. My high school English class must have had at least fifteen girls who had the procedure done and it seemed like they all did it within a week of each other because they all had Band-Aids on their noses and the areas around their eyes were black and blue—- you never heard a sneeze.
Tahneer Oksman looks at the connection between the way stories have been told graphically and the ambiguity we find in the representation of the Jewish self that we find in today’s postmodern era. Her study is about Jewishness that we see in the autobiographical comics of Aline Kominsky Crumb, Vanessa Davis, Miss Lasko-Gross, Lauren Weinstein, Sarah Glidden, Miriam Libicki, and Liana Finck. These writer/artists see identity as based upon the idea of rebellion as identification and belonging and they have represented Jewishness in the spaces between how we see ourselves and how others see us.
Oksman began as PhD. student in literature and she had never considered writing about Jewish women’s comics and in fact she had decided to put Judaism on the back burner. However, as she knowledge, she found herself drawn to the lives of such Jewish writers as Anzia Yezierska, Sara Smolinsky, and Grace Paley. However, she has said that her shift to concentrating Jewish women writers was not necessarily the best career move. She knew that by concentrating on this she would become unmarketable. She thought she was too Jewish for English Literature programs and not Jewish enough for jobs in Jewish programs. She did not want to be classified as a Jewish writer because once pigeonholed, she would be stuck.
Nonetheless her first book is a Jewish book and when asked why, she explains that she wanted to reclaim her former Jewish self.