The Shiksa Syndrome

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USA TODAY's
Fall Book Calendar

(scroll to Oct 7)
 



In the winning latest from chick lit–ster Graff (LOOKING FOR MR. GOODFROG), Manhattan publicist Aimee Albert, who is Jewish and whose first love, Sam, died during 9/11, has just split with her goy boyfriend Peter McKnight. Desperate for a Jewish husband and children reared in the faith, Aimee, relying on an imagined Jewish male penchant for non-Jewish women (shiksas), loses mega poundage on a "Depression Diet," straightens and dyes her dark hair red, pops in green contacts and becomes a Shiksa Barbie. Gentile co-worker Krista Dowd drags the new Aimee to a Jewish mixer, where Krista hooks up with Matt Goldman, a Jewish CPA, and Aimee meets GQ-cute Josh Hirsch, who runs LoveLoaves, a lucrative family business, and who only dates shiksas. For her part, Aimee soon discovers how lies can escalate into self-destruction and self-enlightenment. Graff's prose crackles with winning wit, making her potentially annoying conceit go down like a chocolate-covered macaroon.





Saturating this fluffy romantic comedy of errors is a more subtle commentary about religion and identity that raises the question: How much of yourself do you have to give up in order to be with someone else?





THE SHIKSA SYNDROME paints a comical yet disarmingly accurate picture of the Reform singles scene in New York, describing to a T the Jewish singles events, dates to "kosher style" restaurants and Jewish men's perceptions of non-Jewish women. Sprinklings of Yiddish vocabulary throughout the book and cute chapter titles such as "Boy Vey" and "The Accidental Tsuris," along with equally cute dialogue engage the reader till the last page, and the plot, though somewhat far-fetched at certain points, is certainly entertaining.

While the book is a light, fun read, the author also attempts (successfully) to grapple with some issues facing modern American Jewry, such as cultural assimilation and intermarriage and, amid the dead-on descriptions of Jewish life in New York, slips in many profound observations.





Laurie Graff toggles between Jewish and gentile stereotypes to highlight Aimee's stumbling journey to self-discovery, which provides some funny moments.





So does it really take a shiksa to get a Jewish man? Jewish Aimee Albert inadvertently finds out for herself. After she breaks up with her non-Jewish boyfriend, her family arranges for a makeover. Gone is the curly dark hair and glasses; in comes sleek, straight red hair and green contacts. When Aimee meets her non-Jewish friend Krista at a kosher wine tasting for Jewish singles, she meets handsome Josh Hirsch.

Josh is under the impression that Aimee is not Jewish, so Aimee encourages this misconception, pretending to be a Protestant from Scranton instead of a native Jewish New Yorker. The lie begins to consume her as she removes every Jewish element from her apartment and her life. She knows this is wrong, but she is approaching 40 and must have a Jewish husband. But is it worth abandoning her Jewish roots to attain him?

Graff's latest is by turns funny and poignant as she explores religious identity and modern relationships and finds that sometimes Mr. Wrong may be more right than Mr. Right.





'The Shiksa Syndrome' has Gentile touch

Laurie Graff takes a not-too-kosher look at New York's Jewish dating scene in her third novel, THE SHIKSA SYNDROME. Thirty-something Aimee Albert finds herself back on the Jewish singles circuit after a break-up with her gorgeous, goyish boyfriend Pete.

The entertaining blend of farcical scenarios and quick-fire prose finds an unexpected poignancy as Aimee is forced to confront her fundamental beliefs, tackling religion, loss, what's worth letting go of and, ultimately, what's worth holding on to.



Library Journal

Graff (YOU HAVE TO KISS A LOT OF FROGS) introduces us to 39-year-old publicist Aimee Albert, whose goyish boyfriend, Peter, breaks up with her when she asks if he could give up Christmas and raise kids in the Jewish tradition. Not wanting to hold her back, Peter lovingly ends things, and a depressed and disillusioned Aimee takes on her brother's offer for a makeover, inadvertently transforming herself into a shiksa. Her long, wavy, brown hair is cut, straightened, and dyed red, and her brown eyes are covered with green-tinted contacts. This new image is exactly what Josh Hirsch is drawn to at a kosher wine tasting, and he anxiously thinks Aimee is not Jewish. Realizing his mistake, Aimee does not correct him and proceeds to embrace all the stereotypes that seemingly make someone not Jewish. In this quest to reinvent herself, she destroys everything that makes her who she really is. Readers will enjoy Aimee's chance to rediscover herself and to recognize what she truly values. Recommended for all fiction collections.



Jewish Living

Laurie Graff's hilarious and sharp-witted novel is breezy enough to devour quickly, but resonant, too. When Josh Hirsch mistakes Manhattan publicist Aimee Albert for a non-Jew, she plays along until she realizes she's sacrificing her humor and honesty for a guy with questionable values. The zany scenarios propel the novel but belie a powerful moral core about identity and cultural perceptions.

Book Reporter

THE SHIKSA SYNDROME is a funny and entertaining read. Once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down and actually finished it on the same day. Now I'm eager to get my hands on Laurie Graff's other novels, YOU HAVE TO KISS A LOT OF FROGS and LOOKING FOR MR. GOODFROG. If they're half as good as THE SHIKSA SYNDROME, I have some great reading ahead.

Jewish News of Greater Phoenix

Laurie Graff's biting new novel slices up modern-day Jewish romance with the precision of a New York deli man. THE SHIKSA SYNDROME offers up a witty read with the satisfying crunch of crusty rye and the sting of hot mustard, no matter what you put between the slices.

Graff trains her unerring eye and ear on the Jewish singles scene, peopled with women looking for Mr. Right and men looking for Mr. Right's shiksa counterpart... but Graff puts (stereotypes) to good use in her thought-provoking book, part chick lit and part sociological study.

LibraryJournal.com

Bette-Lee Fox Recommendation: Laurie Graff’s THE SHIKSA SYNDROME takes a predictable premise and turns it upside down (or right to left, as it were): a Jewish woman has relationship issues (what else is new), so she pretends to be a non-Jew in order to snag the perfect Jewish mate. But what might appear perfect could actually be a bit chipped and tarnished upon closer inspection.

Ideal recipient: WOMEN, of every religion, race, philosophy, or hair color. If you’ve got a funny bone, Graff will latch on and refuse to let go. The kind of book to recommend to all your girlfriends, girlfriend.

 




 



Narrator Karrie Kline returns with her stories of frogs that never turn to princes in this follow-up to YOU HAVE TO KISS A LOT OF FROGS. As Karrie turns her tales of dating woe into a successful one-woman show, it seems that being an expert on bad dates doesn't guarantee she'll get good ones. She tries out Internet dating and interviews some old love interests (a move lifted from Nick Hornsby's High Fidelity) to get to the bottom of "dating over forty."

A holiday trip to her mother's retirement community in Palm Beach is a refreshing move: The visit provides her with a chance to compare the change in relationships from one generation to the next, as she scrutinizes "the different steps in the mating dance of the post World War II world" and hears her aunt's nostalgic stories of love over coffee and a game of mahjong.
Graff... offers a fun tour of New York, and readers will welcome the return of her smart narrator.





LOOKING FOR MR. GOODFROG is a feel good book. The reader gets to know the character and what is spinning in her head through her memories. Ms. Graff pens an enchanting read with a woman out to discover what she wishes in life. She spins a yarn that touches the heart, while bringing laughter or a tear. This is a slice of life that spins with creativity.





Graff's follow-up to her debut, YOU HAVE TO KISS A LOT OF FROGS (2004), finds fortysomething actress Karrie Kline at her friend Brooke's wedding. To her chagrin she's there without a date, but it works to her advantage when she hits it off with sexy Doug Fox and gives him her number. At this point, the story flashes back to recap Karrie's dating mishaps, including an almost tryst with an amorous actor friend, a foray into the world of online dating, and the development of her own one-woman stage show, Frogaphobia, based on a lifetime's worth of bad dates.

Karrie's adventures from the year before take up a majority of the novel, and the narrative doesn't work its way back up to the present until it has passed the halfway mark. Readers will be happy when Doug finally reappears, and will eagerly turn the pages to learn if he is Karrie's happy ending, or if her destiny lies elsewhere.


"...sweet and satisfying."




FROG Author Takes On 21st-Century Relationships

Graff takes us into the life of a fortysomething New York actress who is coping with the difficulty of making a living from her art and finding a suitable mate in a city filled with "frogs."

So, rather than simply focus on the search, Graff gives us a fascinating and funny insider's view of life in New York for a struggling actress.

Chick Lit Not Just For Women...

In the book, quirky little facts about frogs set the tone at the start of each chapter ("Although frogs love rain, a factor that stimulates the frog to mate and to breed, torrential downpours should be avoided").

The trappings of dating, (Karrie) finds, may change as one gets older. The available pool of potential partners may shrink, the issues may be different, what was once important may seem insignificant. But the human heart stays the same.


Graff followed up her frog philosophy in a second novel, LOOKING FOR MR. GOODFROG. ...it's the real deal.

 




A Red Dress Ink
Bestseller!
 




Happy Ending: She Kissed So Many Frogs She Wrote A Book About It!

Life hadn't turned out the way Laurie Graff dreamed it would ...in her career or in her love life. But when she put the two together, Laurie got her happy ending!

"You never know what life has in store for you. It may not be the dream you imagined, but it can still be wonderful!"



"Disguised as yet another chick-lit novel about disastrous dating, this book moves beyond genre constraints to offer a provocative and intelligent look at the ways that people search for a meaningful life.

Cleverly titled chapters such as "Weight Listed" and "A Clue in Time Saves Nine" describe actress Karrie Kline's dating adventures, but there's a continuity in her narration that makes this novel more than the sum of its parts. Several themes recur throughout, including Karrie's admiration for her mother and stepfather's marriage and her relationship to Judaism, and though romance may come hard to Karrie, her love for New York City is constant, even when she briefly expatriates to Los Angeles. While Karrie's dates are truly hilarious -- like the man who wears the same outfit every day, and the man who barks like a dog to show affection -- there's also a sense of poignancy as Karrie truly attempts to give each man his due.

Her dates wind through the decades, tracing history as they do, and what's left when the laughter dies down is a normal woman looking for a normal type of happiness, but one who passes by her lucky break like a ship in the night. Those expecting a light and fluffy confection will be pleasantly surprised by this more substantive fare."


ShapeYourLife

This witty novel details actress Karrie Kline’s struggles over 15 years of bicoastal dating dreams and disasters. Enduring everything from no-show dates to Jewish men with “Shiksa Syndrome,” Karrie also deals with her stepfather’s untimely death while gaining perspective on her romantic expectations. Through Karrie’s quest for her perfect prince she discovers the most important person of all: herself.



Thersday

Chick Lit, Chapter II

"Assessing her 45 years on this planet one holiday at a time - from Chanukah to Halloween - Karrie Kline figures out what's gone right, and what's gone drastically wrong. By the time she brings us back to the present, we're rooting for her to find everything she's been missing - which turns out to be less than she imagines."

Be careful, ladies,or you might miss your stop. A new generation of chick lit is appealing to younger, more sophisticated readers.


Miami Herald

Singles talk about life in a frog pond
by Yvonne Carey

Graff put the litany of losers, Casanovas, weirdos and plain old bad choices to work for her in her new book, You Have to Kiss a Lot of Frogs. She shared her thoughts with singles at the David Posnack Jewish Community Center in Davie recently, in the middle of the holiday season.

"Oh, this is not so bad," Graff said, chuckling. "This time of year, you can cling to your friends and family and hide behind them. Now, Valentine's Day -- that's just a direct, `Hey! You have no one! And there's no place to hide!' "

Graff said that hope is what keeps people in the dating pond.

 Romances Magazine

"How hilariously WRONG can one woman's search for love and romance get? You Have to Kiss a Lot of Frogs disarmingly answers this question and wins points for possibly starting a new genre: Let's call it WRO-mance, where the woman swoons over a man, the man reciprocates, love blossoms early and soon a bridal shower doesn't seem so farfetched. Alas, the wine-dine routine is followed by whine-pine as the man turns cold, the man has an attention span of a kid or the man simply does not communicate."

"Karrie Kline is driven to distraction and despair as one potential suitor after another cops out on her, leaving her, at the end of each taut and sharply written chapter, alone once again. Fortunately, what Kline lacks in lifelong companionship, she makes up for with humor. She is anything if not funny, and the vivid vignettes that populate this meaty book will have you laughing and crying out loud at the same time."


“Sex and the City” Fans Know Friendship Beats A Fairly Tale Romance

We must remember, in other words, to be faithful to "Sex and the City," the show that has given us a smart, realistic, honest, intimate -- and funny -- look at the sex lives, love lives and friendships of those four single women in New York. With and without their men.

In other words, we must reject Big.

… "It's an odd thing because 'Sex and the City' has always left it ambivalent, and now everyone is hooking up," says Laurie Graff, a New York-based actress and author whose recently published book, "You Have to Kiss a Lot of Frogs," is something of an anti-chick-lit novel: It has a lead character, Karrie, who explores single life in Manhattan but ends up alone.

… "The message for women is that it's complicated," Graff says. "If he's broken your heart a million times and you go on with your life and just don't meet anybody as great as that guy, you're going to be vulnerable when he comes back. You want to hope, but you can't only hope, you have to keep living.

"So I don't want to see, after six years, that things get tied up in a bow in Paris in the last 15 minutes. That defies what the show has been the last six years. What I want to see is Big do better. I want to see him do the work. And if she loves him, she can try with him."


And then maybe, just maybe, they can get married in the film.


Talent in Motion

“Or …. some are still smooching!”
by Rachel Sokol

Graff’s book is so clever and endearing it makes you forget that “Sex and the City” is no longer on the air. Chick-lit with a heart … Graff admits that she certainly is a lot like Karrie Kline and says her acting experience has definitely influenced her writing style as well. “I read everything aloud,” says Graff. “the writing's got to have a rhythm to it as if it’s being performed.” …. Let’s keep our fingers crossed we’ll get to see Karrie on the big screen!