Schneck, Ken. “Seriously…What Am I Doing Here? The Adventures of a Wondering and Wandering Gay Jew”, illustrated by Dave Perillo, 1984 Publishing, 2017.
We live in a world from which we need to get away every once in a while. Things have changed so rapidly that it helps to sit back, think and then try something we have done before. Ken Schneck has done that several times and in his book, “Seriously…What Am I Doing Here?”, he shares his adventures with us. When he asked himself the question that is the title of his book, he realized that he did not yet have an answer and so he decided to find it by leaving his world of academia. He went to Uganda twice, took a 425-mile bike ride; managed to make trouble at a Californian hippie healing retreat; and hiked in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. His book is a travelogue of those and other adventures as he searched for meaning and community. Like myself, as I mentioned in my earlier review, Schneck is a gay Jew, setting us twice apart from mainstream society (or at least it was that way and not so long ago). It is important to keep in mind that with Judaism comes the need to succeed and we can only fail when he continue trying. I remember when I was in high school that I got a “B” in a course I was struggling with. While a “B” is a fine grade, my father reminded me (several times a semester) that it was not an “A” and that he would really rather not speak to me until I brought that “A” home. There is something in the Jewish ethos that makes us strive for the very finest (kind of like the difference between a Chevrolet and a Cadillac).
There is a lot of wit and humor in this book and I laughed my way through it. I understood that I was laughing with the author and laughing at myself at the same time. In fact, it hit home so many times that I read and reread certain sections over and over.
I have always felt that the best books are those that appeal to the emotions and that pull us in. That is exactly what happens here. While I emphasized the humor earlier, I need to almost note that there is also sadness and a great deal of insight. Like Schneck, we are all on a journey to find out just who we really are and some of us need to do more drastic acts to learn that. We all want to belong somewhere and have a sense of community. Some find that in academia or in a circle of friends. As Schenk looked for that place, he got to Uganda and his other destinations. I can only wonder whether it is the destination that we seek or just the journey that gives us the fulfillment we need.
There are some helpful hints here to consider before and while undertaking that quest and each is a pearl. I see this as both a fun and educative read and I cannot help to recommend it to others.