cover image A Place of Exodus: Home, Memory, and Texas

A Place of Exodus: Home, Memory, and Texas

David Biespiel. Kelson, $20 trade paper (202p) ISBN 978-0-9827838-5-6

Poet Biespiel (Republic Café) meditates in this searching memoir on growing up in Meyerland, a Jewish neighborhood in Houston. The first half details his observant Jewish upbringing, in which he studies for his bar mitzvah and marches annually in the recreation of the biblical Exodus, while also embracing his Texas upbringing by eating barbecue ribs for breakfast. As he gets older, his intellectual curiosity—along with his father’s devastating stroke and his parents’ divorce soon after—leads him to question his faith. At 17, his disillusionment culminates in a classroom quarrel with a rabbi, resulting in his expulsion from Hebrew school (“Like Adam I was kicked out of the garden,” he writes). In the second half, the 50-something Biespiel, now living in Portland, Ore., revisits his old neighborhood and has an anticlimactic encounter with the rabbi he challenged decades before. He ponders what is “home,” but has no tidy answers: “If home isn’t where we are, is it who we are?” he asks. Biespiel is a lyrical writer, especially in passages describing a teen pool party, him communicating with his speech-compromised father, and an earnest moment with his girlfriend. Those who’ve questioned their faith will find much to contemplate in this astute, richly told memoir. (Sept.)