A Tribute to My Favorite Uncles

Looking for some Shabbos/weekend reading?

I’ve got a new story in this week’s Inyan Magazine, inside Hamodia (dated August 26, 2015). The story is called “The Favorite Uncle,” and it’s a sorta reversal of real-life situations between my kids and their beloved uncles, as well as a paean to my own awesome uncles, Ira and Larry.

Synopsis: 11 year-old Alex Silverstein’s favorite uncle frums out (becomes Orthodox), and Alex is not amused.

I’d love feedback from anyone who reads the story!

I also thought this would be a great opportunity to answer a question I’ve been getting a lot lately, included from professional (non-fiction) writers:

How do you write a short story?

Usually, the first step for me is observing the real world, true adventures in human psychology and spirituality, and internalizing them. After a while, I elaborate on them in much the same way that a jazz musician might improvise on a familiar melody.

This kernel of this story is an outing my sons – observant Orthodox Jews from birth – took with one of their uncles – who is not Orthodox – at the beginning of the summer. My sons particularly enjoy the company of this uncle, and despite his different lifestyle, they share a mutual admiration.

This relationship got me thinking about the relationships I have with my own uncles, who stepped in when my parents divorced, and about how the bonds of family can endure despite differences in religiosity. I didn’t want to write a personal essay, so the story is firmly in the realm of fiction, but these truthful observations formed the kernel of the story that eventual developed.

In order to make the break concrete, I did a little role reversal: the person who is observant is no longer a niece, but an uncle. I also pushed some of the situations to the extreme. I made the uncle formerly very, very cool in the eyes of his tween nephew, because he drives a cool car (the car Uncle Larry drove when I was 11) and shares many of the nephew’s favorite hobbies. And then I made his descent a bit drastic (the guy has become quite Hareidi, quite quickly indeed).

Any other writers out there: have you written a story inspired by reality, but turned on its head? Please share in the comments.

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