All I Love and Know by Judith Frank is a novel that perfectly balances fine writing, provocative topics, and a page-turning love story. All I Love and Know is Frank’s second novel, in which she introduces Daniel and Matt, a gay couple whose relationship is challenged when Daniel’s brother and sister-in-law are killed in a terrorist bombing in Jerusalem. It is about a family on the brink of dissolution, and explores issues such as adoption, gay marriage, and true love lost and found. Frank also weaves in the complex history and realities of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, and the raw, unrelenting process of grieving, to make All I Love and Know a novel which stirs the reader intellectually as well as emotionally.
Scott Turow admires this novel as much as we do. He says, “it is a brave, moving, and deeply compelling book, written with grace, about the ways even love and family devotion are challenged when the worst occurs. It makes for hugely rewarding READING.”
Publicist: This story brings up several key issues, which ultimately amplify the larger themes. How do you manage to address the differing points-of-view on these topics with grace while allowing them to enhance and not overpower the story?
Judith Frank: I’m glad you think I did so with grace! Because it was hard. My basic rule of thumb was that every political moment in the novel should be doing more than one thing – should be working on interpersonal and emotional levels as well as the political. So, for example, when Daniel says that he can understand, if not condone, the terrorist wanting to make himself violently visible, he’s speaking out of his sense of justice, but he’s also speaking out of his own experience as Joel’s “invisible twin.” Or when Matt asks Yossi whether his work deals with political violence, he’s trying to start a conversation about the responsibilities of the Israeli artist, but also to get under this attractive, condescending and impervious man’s skin.
P: Regardless of which side of these arguments people fall on, they will be talking about this book. Did you intend to create something so controversial?
JF: I did. I think it’s hard to have honest and open conversations about Israel in the U.S., because any criticism of it seems to be a denial of the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. But the American Jewish community is more diverse in its opinions than many imagine. I wanted to open up some space for people’s ambivalence. For example: late in her life, my mother – after living in Israel for years and becoming an Israeli citizen– joined a U.S. congregation with a radical rabbi, traveled to Palestinian refugee camps, and came to believe that when a people is occupied, there are no longer two sides to the story. At the same time, my two nieces, her beloved granddaughters, were serving in the Israeli Defense Forces. How do you handle those contradictions in your daily life? In the U.S. we tend to separate the category of “the political” – but the truth is, we live the political with our bodies, minds, and hearts. I thought a lot as I was writing about the 9/11 families who opposed the war on terror and traveled to Afghanistan on a peace mission. How must have the U.S.’s response to the deaths of their loved ones affected their day-to-day lives, and the ways they were able to mourn?
As for the gay marriage plot, does that still count as controversial? Every day it’s a little less so, it seems. I’ll just say that every writer who writes about the lives of LGBT characters serves – whether she wants to or not, whether that’s her intention or not – as a kind of ambassador to the straight world. They say that the biggest variable affecting people’s view of LGBT rights is whether they actually know an LGBT person. I hope that reading All I Love and Know will make people feel as though they know two of them.
P: How does this story allow for expanded understandings of what family means?
JF: I wanted my protagonists to be men partly because a family without a mother seems so inimical to Jewish life and to our usual ways of thinking about nurture. As one of two moms, I live in an unconventional family, and my imagination is drawn to families that form themselves in unconventional ways, and tell stories about themselves that differ from the usual one.