When she started writing in about 2005, Kellen Kaiser had planned to call her book “How to Plan a Gay Kosher Wedding for 250.” Instead, her relationship with the story’s male lead unraveled.
In May, Kaiser published “Queerspawn in Love: A Memoir” (She Writes Press), an allegorical, even cautionary, tale of Jewish love.
Over bibimbap at a Koreatown strip mall, Kaiser, who was in town for a July 7 reading at Book Soup on Sunset Boulevard, delivered her one-liner on what the book is about: “What happens when the daughter of a quartet of lesbians falls in love with a guy serving in the Israel Defense Forces.”
Kaiser’s circumstances are unusual to the point of being singular: Raised with an abundance of motherhood by four lesbians, she was called upon at a young age to act as a precocious spokesperson for “queerspawn,” the children of gay parents.
Hers has been a life examined. Kaiser knew during her youth in Berkeley that she was growing up as a test case of a “small pioneering demographic.” Today she’s a companionable 35-year-old with a wide smile and little in the way of a filter.
“Part of having gay parents is that people talk to you about sexuality at a much younger age than average, because they talk to you about your parents’ sexuality, and sexuality in general,” she said. “So, like, when I was 5, I had reporters ask me if I’d ever been molested by my parents.”
But Kaiser belongs to an even smaller demographic than queerspawn — she is, as her transatlantic love story impresses beyond a doubt, Jewish queerspawn.
“Queerspawn in Love” is the story of how Kaiser, before she was old enough to buy booze, fell in love with Lior Gold, an American-born IDF recruit, and embarked on a long-distance relationship that survived an intifada and an invasion of the West Bank only to flounder back in the States.
The IDF is rarely as sexy as in the scene where Kaiser for the first time undresses her lover from his army uniform.
“He took off his M16, removed the ammunition and locked it somewhere separate from the gun, then checked the empty chamber and put the rifle away,” she writes. “Finally, I could undress him.”
Kaiser is well suited to the task of dissecting Jewish sexual mores, a large part of what she does in the book.
Her Jewish credentials run deep. She spent a year on a kibbutz in Israel before college and taught Sunday school at a Reform synagogue after graduating — all this in spite of the fact that she is not, in a technical sense, Jewish.
Her dad was Jewish, and a Cohen, no less, but also a one-night stand in Paris who was more or less duped into conception. Kaiser has puzzled over the ethics of this situation even while at the same time half-seriously considering the same course of action in Israel (“Watch out, boys,” she said over lunch).
Kaiser’s biological mother, Nyna, is not Jewish, but she married a Jewish woman during Kellen’s childhood, and they celebrate Jewish holidays. Kellen is, by her own telling and according to her long Jewish C.V., “a very Jewish person.”
Her brother has the opposite situation: a Jewish biological mother, a non-Jewish father and little attachment to the faith.
“And we’re like the classic sort of reactions to it, where I was bat mitzvahed, grew up in a labor Zionist youth movement, went to Israel, worked for Hillel,” she said. “My brother did none of it. None of it! And he’s like, ‘I’m a Jew.’ ”
Wherever Kaiser finds herself, she said, she seeks out Jews and gays.
During a five-year stint in Los Angeles after the events in her book, she flirted with the Jewish community here, but her tryst through the city’s multitude of Jewish singles events was a qualified success.
“They got me laid, but I’m still single,” she said with characteristic candor.
“I think it was mainly geared toward conservative Sephardi Westsiders, some of whom were ridiculously good looking,” she went on. “They were some of the prettiest Jews I’ve ever seen in my life. Beautiful, beautiful Jews.”
Kaiser now lives in Mendocino County and works as a sex education teacher and part-time cattle farmer on a ranch belonging to one of her mothers. But her book makes her a de facto spokesperson for Jewish sex positivity.
According to her research and experience, “Jews just have a much more healthy sexual culture and philosophy than Christians do, generally speaking,” she said over lunch. “Jews are much more sex positive than Christians. They don’t have the same dynamics in terms of shame.”
As evidence, she pointed to the “preponderance of Jewish lesbians.”
“I have zero data on that,” she said. “But I just know so many Jewish lesbians.”
Kaiser is well groomed for the role of Jewish sex evangelist: “I have always loved having sex with Jews,” she said.
Her romantic experience has been Semitic from the moment of her first kiss, which took place at her LGBT synagogue during the waning minutes of Yom Kippur when she was 13.
“It was right at the break-fast,” she recalled. “We were hanging out by the giant tables of food, and at the time my crush was like, ‘I’m going to eat something.’ And I’m like, ‘You can’t — there’s not three stars in the sky yet, it’s not time.’ He’s like, ‘I’m going to do it.’ I’m like, ‘You should kiss me instead.’ ”
Cheesy, sure, but effective — he kissed her.
The only thing missing from Kaiser’s Jewish love story is an ending.
She’d imagined her wedding as a place where all her different crowds — queer, Jewish and otherwise — could come together in all their kaleidoscopic color. That hasn’t happened. But her book tour has been something of a consolation prize, she said.
On July 7, Kaiser was the last in a group of six women authors brought together by her publisher to read in front of a crowd of some two dozen in a narrow, book-lined space looking out onto Sunset Boulevard.
The reading went well, the audience laughing at the proper moments. Afterward, the authors adjourned to a table in front to sign books, with cookies and wine on offer.
Kaiser quickly found herself with a line of callers, while the other authors chatted idly with one another. Asked if they were fans or friends, Kaiser barely needed to glance at the line.
“Entirely friends,” she said.
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