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LAist Interview: Ruth Andrew Ellenson

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Still searching for that special Hanukkah or Chrismukkah gift? Ruth Andrew Ellenson has a suggestion for you – The Modern Jewish Girl’s Guide to Guilt – perfect for the girl or goy on your list (sorry, we couldn’t resist that one).

Released by Dutton in August and edited by Ellenson, the book is a collection from 28 women writers — including Aimee Bender and Daphne Merkin — who explore what it means to be a woman and a Jew. Essays like “A Grandmother’s Biological Clock,” “Oy Christmas Tree, Oy Christmas Tree,” ”True Confessions of a JDate Addict” and “Great, My Daughter is Marrying a Nazi,” are at once funny, smart, self-pitying and inspiring.

Here’s what Ellenson had to say about Jewishness and LA life in general.

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Age and Occupation: 32, Writer.

How long have you lived in Los Angeles, and which neighborhood do you live in?
I've lived in LA a good 15 years off and on. Mostly in Jewy Jewville: Fairfax and Pico-Robertson.

Where are you from?
I was born in Jerusalem and also raised in New York. Hence, my residing in the Chood.

So why a “Guide to Guilt”?
You don’t have guilt unless you love something. I realized how divided my loyalties were as a person and as a Jew — I was caught between the two worlds. [I’ve found] that a lot of minority groups can also feel that push pull…I’ve found that black women can especially relate.

Jewish guilt is a pop culture commodity…but Jews don’t have a monopoly on guilt.

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What’s the difference between Catholic guilt and Jewish guilt?
Catholics win the guilty sex battle.

Los Angeles is often stereotyped as a hard place to find personal connections and make friends. Do you agree with that assessment?
Not at all. In fact I think when you spend part of your childhood here; it's amazing how many random people you run into. At least in the city, it can feel like a big village. I think New York, where I've spent the other half of my life, is a far more alienating place.

What's your favorite movie(s) or TV show(s) that are based in LA?
Has there ever been a more brilliant movie made about LA than The Big Lebowski? Not only is that film an ode to LA, but it's like Caddyshack for intellectuals. A perfect combination in my mind.

Best LA-themed book(s)?
I'm going to have to go for Raymond Chandler, the whole canon. I think those books perfectly capture what is glamorous and mysterious about LA. LA can be a hard place for writers to capture because it is so diverse. I think Chandler blends the different worlds quite well.

What's the best place to walk in LA?
Hancock Park at night. It feels quiet and vaugely suspenseful as you walk past all those gorgeous homes in those glowing street lamps and wonder what's going on inside.

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It's 9:30 pm on a typical Thursday. Where are you coming from and where are you going?
As a reporter I may be out an event eyeing the swag and eating all the fabulous tiny food they only serve at premiere parties. If not, the Urth Cafe in Beverly Hills (far less crowded most of the time) is another favorite haunt.

If you could live in LA during any era, when would it be?
I'd go for the 1920's when Carthay Circle was considered a suburb and you could ride a trolley to work.

What is the "center" of LA to you?
Pico Blvd. seems to be the dividing line between rich and poor LA.

What is the city's greatest secret?
Making out in car in the Hollywood Hills while looking down at the city lights has been a lascivious favorite of mine since high school. I highly recommend it. Even better if you get caught.

Describe your best LA dining experience.
The [now closed] Four Oaks. Where else could you eat in a former brothel that you can only afford when your parents come to town and are willing to take you to a fancy meal?

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Where do you want to be when the Big One hits?
I would prefer not to.

Hanukkah begins Christmas night this year.

Photo credit: Orit Harpaz