The Book Catapult welcomes local author Jessica Keith for the launch of her new memoir, Saying Inshallah With Chutzpah: A Gefilte Fish Out of Water Story on Friday, November 17 at 7pm.
From floundering to navigating, this gefilte-fish-out-of-water story follows the unorthodox path of a Jewish woman working for a Muslim government.
“Marrying one woman is like eating chicken every day for the rest of your life,” the cultural attaché—a.k.a. my boss—warned the week before my Jewish wedding. I replied, “I like chicken."
Seven months before her traditional Jewish wedding to Tyrone, her beau of eight years, Jessica Keith made the impulsive decision to move away, accepting an offer to work for the Consulate of Kuwait in Los Angeles. The work culture was unfamiliar territory—with a lot to unpack—she felt lost in translation. The job entailed corralling eighteen-year-old, doe-eyed Muslim boys and releasing them into the wild for their initiation into the western world—college in the U.S. With crippling anxiety fueled by unpredictable panic attacks, Jessica never believed she could walk down an aisle. She said, “I can’t” so many times that she never thought she’d say “I do.” After finally setting the wedding date, nothing seemed to go right. The rabbi refused to perform the interfaith ceremony, and her grandmother warned, “You can’t marry a Black man.” Rather than speak up Jessica found it easier to just bite her tongue. But when she learns on the job, “Jews need not apply,” it shatters her faith in herself. Adrift in life and at work, Jessica learns that it takes resilience to persevere.
Jessica Keith is a professor of cross-cultural communication at San Diego State University. She has worked for two foreign governments at the Embassy of Spain and The Consulate of Kuwait. A Community Action Grant from the American Association of University Women was awarded to her to produce her documentary, Beyond Our Boundaries, distributed by Berkely Media. She has been published in the New York Times, Kveller, McSweeney’s, The Nosher, Scary Mommy, Uptown News, Sammiches & Psych Meds, PJ Library, Medium, and BLUNTmoms. Jessica lives in sunny San Diego with her soulmate and their three children, the family’s first generation of Black Jews. www.jessicakeithwriter.com