In her beautifully written collection of short stories, Racelle Rosett, a television writer from Los Angeles, enters the lives of members of a Reform Jewish community in Hollywood.
Rosett, who spent her childhood summers in Wilmette with her grandmother, is the winner of both the Moment Magazine-Karma Foundation Prize for Jewish short fiction and the Lilith Fiction Prize. As a television writer, she won the Writers Guild award for the TV show Thirtysomething.
One of Rosett's pieces from the collection, Shomer is being used by Rabby Lisa Greene, of North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe in her confirmation class. Rosett will visit with the class at the end of October, and speak for the congregation's sisterhood Wednesday, Oct. 24.
On Oct. 25, Rosett will read from Moving Waters at the Book Cellar in Lincoln Square, and will be joined by three Chicago-area actresses who will read excerpts with Rosett at the free event.
JUF News talked to Rosett about her new collection:
JUF News: What was your inspiration for writing this collection of short stories?
Racelle Rosett: I started my career in television and wrote for Blossom and later Thirtysomething. When my kids were small I stepped away from television and returned to writing in a more personal way. The temple where my kids went to school is nicknamed "Temple Beth Showrunner" because so many television creators go there. My world was centered around the temple at that time and I was compelled and moved by how like a shtetl it really was. How even in LA, where our lives are so disparate, people rely on each other and continue to turn to the temple for their rest and renewal.
When reading, I noticed themes of loss, relationships and Jewish identity-is there one theme that ties all of these stories together?
I believe that what ties the stories together is the idea the Jewish ritual continues to make sense. That there is at the ready a path to understanding loss, even when the loss is novel to us, these rituals are there for us, they are transformative—even now, even in LA.
How does your Jewish identity influence your writing?
In this collection of course it is the headline. It was like finding something beautiful that you forgot you had, something packed away. I would lose myself for hours reading and revisiting these ideas. So much of how I approach the world is Jewish—including my great delight in arguing. I write other kinds of stories and scripts and of course they are all informed by my worldview but this collection allowed me to really explore what was most beautiful and valuable to me as a Jewish writer.
What do you hope the reader will take away from this collection?
That we remain connected as Jews. That we have a faith that is relevant and can move with us into the future. Also, that we have permission and the power to make these rituals our own. The title story "Moving Waters" brings the ritual of mikvah to a place that was never predicted and Winter Bloom, the character who steps into the water, is changed by it by enacting this ancient ritual today.
What is next for you?
I'm working a novel about the time I spent in the Negev in Sde Boker in a youth village that was established by Ben Gurion "to make the desert bloom." It follows a group of students and traces how their time in Israel continues to impact their lives here and in Israel.
For more information about the collection, visit www.racellerosett.com.