Thursday, October 6, 2022

Q&A with Susan Weidman Schneider and Yona Zeldis McDonough





Susan Weidman Schneider and Yona Zeldis McDonough are the editors of the new anthology Frankly Feminist: Short Stories by Jewish Women from Lilith Magazine. Schneider is Lilith's editor-in-chief, and her other books include Jewish and Female. McDonough is Lilith's fiction editor, and her many other books include The House on Primrose Pond


Q: Why did you decide to create this anthology, and how did you work together on the project?


A: We are so proud of the stories Lilith has published and wanted to give them both a more formal and more permanent kind of presentation—the anthology seemed the perfect way to accomplish both goals. And the stories interact with one another in unexpected ways, which makes the compilation greater than the sum of its parts.


Working together has been one of the highlights of this experience for us both. We have great rapport, and we were able to discuss every aspect of the project in the most exacting and loving detail. It’s fair to say that we derived inspiration, momentum, and a lot of pleasure from our conversations. 


Q: How did you choose the stories to include, and how did you decide on the order in which they would appear?


A: Well, first we read through absolutely every story Lilith magazine had ever published, and made our first list of about 80 we wanted to include. Then we had the even harder task of winnowing down that list.


At the top of our minds was the desire to be as inclusive as possible of the varieties of Jewish feminist experiences and identities as we could. We considered several factors, such as subject matter, as well as the author’s background. As we worked, the stories themselves began to coalesce into categories.


With regard to order, we did have in mind, though rather loosely, the lifecycle. For example, the first story in the book, “The New World” by Esther Singer Kreitman (the almost-forgotten sister of Isaac Bashevis Singer), starts when the protagonist is still in the womb! Lilith first published this story, translated from the Yiddish, on the 100th anniversary of its author’s birth. 


Q: Yona, what was the inspiration behind your story "Zhid”?


A: The story was based on something that happened to my Russian-born grandmother—like the character in the story, she and my grandfather lived in Detroit—though of course it did not happen exactly like that. 


She was a difficult and unhappy woman; we were not close. Yet when she died, I was overcome with grief and regret, and I found myself writing about her, perhaps as a way to honor—and apologize—to her, things that did not happen while she was alive. 


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: “Frankly Feminist” is our part of Lilith’s tagline—independent, Jewish & frankly feminist—and we love it! It’s honest, forthright and a bit cheeky. We feel it says who we are, clearly and plainly, and adds a bit of a twist to our Jewish identity. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: We are always looking ahead! We’re looking for more of the best and most compelling fiction for Lilith’s pages. Short stories by writers of all different ages and backgrounds and locations and perspectives. 


Lilith’s annual fiction contest opened on Sept. 1, 2022 and we look forward to reading this year’s crop of submissions. On the off chance that there are any readers who are not yet subscribers to Lilith magazine, you can remedy this immediately at


And…watch your bookstores in December for Yona’s ninth novel, The Dressmakers of Prospect Heights, which will be published by HarperCollins under the pen name Kitty Zeldis! Plus, of course, we’re keeping in mind Frankly Feminist, Volume Two for those wonderful stories Lilith brings to readers this year and down the line.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: The collection Frankly Feminist makes a terrific vehicle for book group or salon conversations! There’s a short list of really provocative (in the best way) questions for discussion at the back of the book.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Yona Zeldis McDonough.

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