FICTION / WOMEN'S STUDIES / JEWISH STUDIES
GOODBYE, EVIL EYE: STORIESGloria DeVidas Kirchheimer
The stories in Goodbye, Evil Eye revolve around the tensions between Sephardic Jews—whose multilingual roots lie in Spain, Turkey, Greece, Egypt, the Middle East—and U.S. urban life. With their superstitions, myths, and contradictions, the characters fight to retain the old ways or struggle to free themselves of them, sometimes with bizarre consequences: a female corporate executive agrees to perform the evil eye exorcism to rid her mother of depression; a father impersonates his son as a job applicant; a woman's belief that she is descended from Christopher Columbus colors her life.
The Inquisition and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain is still an immediate memory for many of these people. They try to recapture the Golden Age by clinging to Ladino, their archaic language, and by enthusiastically appropriating anything that resembles their former lives in the Ottoman Empire: a view of the sea, a mode of dress, courtship rituals. Unable to assert themselves in their patriarchal families, the women must resort to innuendo and subterfuge. Ruled by the constraints of ancestral mores and an often-shaky sense of reality, it is they who transmit a rich cultural heritage to their children, a process that sometimes backfires.
The life of the Sephardim has hardly been noted in American fiction. This collection will
reveal to the public some exotic yet familiar characters. Kirchheimer's stories address the
particular experiences of women, immigrants, and Jews in a pluralistic society, while at the
same time assuming universal coloration and stature.
"Ms. Kirchheimer, a Sephardi married to an Ashkenazi, presents a series of short stories that offer a glimpse of life in the American Sephardic community. ...The culture clash between Sephardic and Ashkenazic in-laws at a Hanukkah party, a father covering for an incompetent son, and a woman reconnecting with a male friend after many years all demonstrate universal themes along with unique Sephardic elements."
"Demonstrating an intuitive understanding of the psychocultural traits of Jewish culture, she imbues even the most frustrating moments with tenderness.
She does not probe religious or philosophical depths, focusing instead on small remnants of a long, rich heritage, in stories invested with the personal
honesty and emotions only one's family can inspire."
"For Kirchheimer, as for so many Sephardim here who feel that American observers have slighted their contributions to Jewish culture in favor of the
more visible Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazi communities, the intergenerational elements of the collection are really about preserving this culture in all its
diverse elements. As seriously as she takes that mission, Kirchheimer is never somber about it; on the contrary, her tone is wry and warm...."
"Like honey and lemon, each page mingles sweet and sour."
"How good—important—for us Eastern Jews to hear from the Sephardic families—the closeness and the distance and all the humourousness and gifts
of storytelling. Goodbye, Evil Eye will interest and delight readers everywhere."
"Gloria DeVidas Kirchheimer's stories are intimate domestic portraits of Sephardic Jews. Her characters are invariably globetrotters at the crossroads
between tradition and modernity. This volume will delight readers intrigued by the eclipsed side of American Judaism."
"...a reflective and witty collection of stories by the second-generation Sephardi-American writier, Gloria DeVidas Kirchheimer....[Her] stance is ironic and
her humor dry in these stories of contradiction and accommodation, of individual freedom against a backdrop of family tension and cultural displacement....As Kirchheimer's
Sephardim remind us that intergenerational and intercultural tension is real, even inevitable, they also assure us that reconciliation is possible, often in surprising ways."
"The book is humorous and warm and sincere and filled with the love she has for her family and her heritage. Those
who know little about the Sephardic culture should read this book and enjoy learning something new and wonderful. Those who are familiar with the culture
will find this book a wonderful contribution to contemporary American Jewish literature."
"Laden with tension, but filled with love, these stories portray Jewish family life at its best and worst. They tell the truth about our foibles, bring
out the finest of our intentions and illuminate beautifully the challenges of living in America, when a part of each of us still dwells in an older, heart-rending
Jewish world, a world where the "evil eye" is alive and well."
"In this charming collection of short stories by Gloria DeVidas Kirchheimer, we are introduced to Sephardic families through the wry wit and uncanny eyes of their
daughters. But simmering beneath the humorous and exotic surface are issues between mother and daughter that are complex and charged."
"...A superb collection of short stories.... Goodbye, Evil Eye is enthusiastically recommended, literate, and insightful reading that will linger in the mind and heart
long after the book is closed and laid back upon the shelf."
“The color and flavor of the characters’ lives emerge in the stories, which are poignant, funny, and warm. The stories are well written, easy to read, and enjoyable.”
Gloria DeVidas Kirchheimer is a writer, editor, and translator whose work has been published in a number of magazines and anthologies. Under the name Gloria Levy she made one of the earliest recordings of Sephardic folk songs in the United States. She is co-author (with Manfred Kirchheimer) of We Were So Beloved: Autobiography of a German Jewish Community.