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Writing About Your Life

Writing about yourself, your friends and family is your bread and butter when you’re a nonfiction writer. But it gets rather tricky. Most of my friends and family are very, very, very (very!) private. And so for the most part, no one’s interested in seeing themselves in the limelight much less a critical one.

I’ve made mistakes in the pursuit of storytelling. So now, frequently conversations with friends and family will start with, “I better be careful with what I say around Aliza because she’ll write about it” or “This is off the record.” I’ve learned how to veil people’s identities using pseudonyms or just first names or changing distinguishing characteristics “to protect the innocent.” I’ve also learned that you can ask for permission but you won’t always get it.
I’ve also learned, I’m not alone in this quest to tell stories without hurting loved ones. I recently watched in horror as the comments section of a really good piece on indifference by Emuna Braverman turned into a debate about whether writing about real people is lashon hara. And biracial comedian Sundra Croonquist, a convert, is being sued for telling jokes about her in-laws. I guess I should be grateful I haven’t been sued.
In “The Memoir and Children’s Privacy,” author David Matthews writes, “When it comes to writing about family or friends, you can be liked, or you can tell the truth. If you want both, you should become an accountant.” It’s too bad those are the only choices a writer is given.

11 thoughts on “Writing About Your Life

  1. Is there a reason your google ads sell non-kosher products (http://www.therugelachman.com/). They acknowledge on their web site that their products are not certified kosher. As the rebbetizn of a future rabbi and as Orthodox Jew this is unacceptable. Do you have no standards??? Maybe it's time that the Orthodox word scrutinizes your less than Orthodox blog, leading who knows how many people astray from the Torah with this sheker.

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  2. Anonymous, what in the world makes you think that I have anything to do with what Google Ads chooses to advertise. Also, you should know that a great number of my readers ARE NOT JEWISH and they would certainly have no trouble eating nonkosher food. Click on the Jewish ads as you see fit, your choice to ignore the rest. I do not appreciate your tone of voice, especially your “threats.” I think you should tread extremely careful giving the time of year.

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  3. Hola Aliza,

    You're accountable for everything on your blog. According to your logic “a great number of my readers ARE NOT JEWISH and they would certainly have no trouble eating nonkosher food.”, you should have no problem advertising bacon or shell-fish. Maybe you don't care.

    You choose to use Google Ads. Many religious Jewish bloggers have moved to religious-focused advertising services like yidsense.com. Does your rabbi approve that you “shill” for products that are inappropriate for an Orthodox Jew to promote, regardless of your mixed readership?

    It's pathetic that you feel threatened by critical analysis of your blog that does not agree with you. Are you a fascist like Rafael Trujillo? Allegedly he had an affinity for Jews too.

    Thank you for your threat or warning “I think you should tread extremely careful giving the time of year.”

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  4. Carlos, it might have occurred to you and Anonymous instead of attacking me to mention alternatives to Google Ads like yidsense.

    I would have no trouble with Google advertising bacon and shell-fish to my non-Jewish readers. I doubt that my Jewish readers, especially the observant ones, will feel drawn to sin and eat bacon or shell-fish (both pretty disgusting tasting, at least to me).

    I choose Google Ads because it was the only option that I knew of. I haven't made a red cent from it and I have thought of taking them off my site because well, they're ugly! Your comments bring up an issue I hadn't considered as I never look at the ads on my website.

    I am sensitive to your concerns. My Facebook page keeps advertising bacon to me though my religious status is Jewish-Orthodox. I could complain but I imagine (I hope) that the two are unrelated and Facebook is not purposely trying to market bacon to Jews. As I am not trying to market non-kosher food to Jews.

    I have never been called a Dominican fascist. Well, except by my students. I am very, very careful about what kinds of comments I allow on my blog, especially ones that are divisive or attack groups of people or individuals. I don't believe that this presents the best picture of Orthodox Jews or Jews in general to outsiders and people in the fold. If you wish, I can link you to the blog I wrote about this.

    I think we should always be careful about our words, I think we should be especially careful about this time of year when we are supposed to be reflecting on how we have hurt people and ask for their forgiveness.

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  5. Aliza, for the love of HKBH, PLEASE set your blog to only accept comments by people with the cojones to identify themselves – either through Google or at least Open ID.

    Idiots who are going to harass you about something like GoogleAds will never post if they actually had to leave a real name.

    You have my permission to replace the word cojones with chutzpah if you feel better about allowing the comment through that way :o)

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