Those who appreciate Vanessa Hidary’s unique, fierce voice in her solo performances as the Hebrew Mamita can now enjoy her words in print, as well. “The Last Kaiser Roll in the Bodega,” Hidary’s first book, is a compelling compilation that paints a word picture of a bold Jewish woman ahead of her time. It is a well-organized collection of autobiographical poems, excerpts from her one-woman show “Culture Bandit,” childhood writing and memorabilia, and newly written long-form narratives.
Much of “The Last Kaiser Roll in the Bodega” is set on the multi-cultural Upper West Side of Manhattan, where Hidary grew up in a liberal family of mixed Syrian-Russian descent. It is not hard to perceive the nascent Hebrew Mamita in the young Hidary, who attended local public schools and who — despite having attended Hebrew school and Jewish camps — socialized almost exclusively with Latino and African-American friends.
Hidary still lives on the same block where she grew up. Although known primarily as a spoken word artist, she prefers to be referred to as a writer and solo performer. The Arty Semite spoke to Hidary about Jewish comedy, the vicissitudes of dating, and being the Hebrew Mamita.
Renee Ghert-Zand: how would you describe “The Last Kaiser Roll in the Bodega?”