By REBECCA WALD
I have just read “The Measure of His Grief” by Jewish author Lisa Braver Moss. It is a character and issue driven novel, with an air of mystery, that is engaging and well paced.
|“Grief” Author, Lisa Braver Moss|
As the book opens, we enter the life of Berkeley physician Sandy Waldman, who has just learned his father, a Holocaust survivor, has died. What occurs in the days that follow is confusing and remarkable: he begins to experience gripping physical and psychological pain that appears to have no medical origin.
Ultimately, Sandy comes to believe he’s been reliving the long repressed trauma of his own circumcision. Thus begins Sandy’s journey of self discovery that will change, and challenge, everything about his life. Like any good work of fiction, “The Measure of His Grief” has an underlying symbolism that will not be apparent to many readers, but will work its way, like water, into the deepest reaches of their psyches.
Those opposed to childhood cutting will be pleased to discover a work of fiction that directly addresses the lasting emotional and physical consequences of male infant circumcision, and does so as an in-depth treatment. As a Jewish person opposed to circumcision, I find it easy to relate to the characters and content of “The Measure of His Grief.” However, one need not be involved in the anti-circumcision movement, or be Jewish, to appreciate this well-constructed novel, and herein lies its greatest accomplishment.
The facts about male infant circumcision are widely available. Thanks to the Internet, expectant parents can easily research arguments pro and con, and draw their conclusions. Fiction, however, can be more valuable than fact. It has the power to bring the circumcision issue to a broad audience, not just parents searching for answers or those interested in the debate. Fiction also has the capacity to generate awareness about important topics and to explore them from all angles in an enjoyable way. Alex Haley’s “Roots: The Saga of an American Family” comes to mind in its ability to explore the impact of slavery in America in an emotional and human way, as opposed to one that is dryly factual.
“The Measure of His Grief” is an invented story, yet the information presented about infant circumcision and the controversy surrounding it is largely factual. Such blending of the real and the unreal is commonplace in fictional writing and certainly within the convention. However, because the facts about circumcision presented in this book are of a such a startling and controversial nature, I believe some readers will be left wondering whether they are based upon solid research (they are) or simply the product of an author’s wild imagination. Although outside the custom, I wonder if a note to the reader could serve clarify this point, in some way, should there be a second printing.
Perhaps I’m too optimistic, but I think in coming years, thanks to the widespread dissemination of information made possible through the Internet, we are going to see circumcision becoming increasingly recognized as human rights violation. With this change, I expect to see ever more literature that incorporates notions of genital integrity, both as subplots and as major themes.
Those wishing to learn more about “The Measure of His Grief” and its author should visit her website: http://lisabravermoss.com/The_Measure_of_His_Grief.html
© 2011 Rebecca Wald
An appendix, no more that 2 pages long, mentioning the sources Moss consulted in researching the adverse effects of Jewish and secular circumcision, would be entirely appropriate, and would not come across as eccentric or as a form of grandstanding.