For many gays and lesbians, religion, be it Christianity or Judaism, can be very hard to reconcile to and keep true to their identities at the same time. Gravity by Leanne Lieberman explores these very problems for a lesbian Orthodox Jewish teenager.
It is the summer of 1987 in Canada, and fifteen year old Ellie Gold, the younger daughter of two Jewish teachers, goes to stay with her grandmother for the summer. With her Bubbie, Ellie feels more freedom than she ever had at home with her strict parents. During her vacation, she meets Lindsay, a Christian girl with strong rebellious tendencies. They become unlikely friends, and soon share their first kiss, which leaves Ellie confused about herself and her faith.
Once summer ends and Ellie goes back to school, she begins to painstakingly research what the Torah says on homosexuality. The answers she gets from the Torah and her school counselor lead her to feelings of shame and self-loathing. She tries to push her thoughts of Lindsay away, but the girl keeps entering her mind. Soon, she questions the accuracy of the Torah and wonders if she has a place in her faith.
This story of one girl’s soul-searching is gripping and can easily resonate with questioning lesbians of any faith. I found Ellie to be a highly relatable character; her alarm at her first stirrings of attraction, her questioning and agonizing “Is this wrong?” “Why can’t I change?” repeats the same questions of lesbians everywhere. I saw my own pain and fear in Ellie. And her feelings of having no place in her religion is a major issue for lesbians today.
Gravity, besides having serious religious questions, can also be comical. Ellie’s Bubbie is funny and provides a few laughs. Ellie’s sister Neshama is a rebellious teen trying to make her own way in the world. She and Ellie exchange some banter, but really care for each other, as evidenced by Neshama’s accepting attitude towards her sister.
Leanne Lieberman does a good job showing the customs of Orthodox Judaism, as well as the language spoken during prayers. In the back of the book is a glossary of Hebrew words and names of the holidays Ellie and her family celebrate, such as Purim and Rosh Hashanah.
There are good subplots to the story as well, such as Neshama’s secretly applying to universities and Ellie’s mother’s struggle to find her own niche in the Jewish faith. There’s also the enigmatic Lindsay, who has issues of her own to deal with. Each subplot adds in to the story so that the reader sees multiple things going on, not just Ellie’s relationship with Lindsay. It gives the book a more realistic feel to it, and brings out the characters a lot more.
Anyone who is into lesbians trying to reconcile their faith should pick up this book. Though it takes place over twenty years ago, Gravity still resonates with modern lesbians. With its realistic characters and plotlines, people will be drawn in to Ellie’s story and see their own at the same time.