Local author examines Jewish experience through fiction
by: Auzinea Bacon
In a country where some states are banning teaching about critical social issues, including slavery and racism, a College Park resident hopes to fight discrimination through her stories.
Mady Wechsler Segal’s story, The Hanukkah Bush of Rehoboth, follows a young Jewish girl off to college at Salisbury University, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where she meets a young man. She doesn’t find out until later that he’s Jewish, a connection that then strengthens their bond.
Wechsler Segal grew up in a Jewish community in New York City and didn’t experience discrimination, herself, until she moved away. She lived in Northern Virginia for a stretch, and said she had neighbors there who had never met a Jewish person before. She recalled that one of her neighbors admitted she was surprised that Wechsler Segal didn’t have a tail and horns.
Wechsler Segal initially crafted stories as a means of fictionalizing her life for others. She described herself as an extrovert who used to tell stories about her career to anyone who would listen, and people frequently suggested she write a memoir.
In college, Wechsler Segal started out as a math major before adding a second major in sociology during her senior year. She also completed a three-year fellowship in mathematical sociology at the University of Chicago.
“Sociology and social psychology will tell you people prefer people who are similar to them,” she said. “I like people because I like to learn from other people.”
Wechsler Segal submitted her short story to the Rehoboth Beach Reads Short Story Contest. Though the story didn’t place in the top three in the contest, it received a judge’s award and it is scheduled to be published by Cat & Mouse Press, as part of a collection, in December.
Wechsler Segal said that the Rehoboth Beach Reads Short Story Contest only accepts about 10% of submissions, many of which are written by experienced fiction writers. Her experience of entering the contest was so validating that she plans to finish the novel she’s been working on for 11 years and then focus her writing on short stories.
“This is not a career, this is a hobby,” Wechsler Segal said. ” I’ve done so much work on diversity and discrimination against women, by race, by ethnicity, by sexual orientation. I was really excited to get this print … to get accepted.”