A Kaiser Roll in the Bodega

July 26, 2011 | By

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Vanessa Hidary calls herself the “Hebrew Mamita.” She was raised on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, in a Sephardic Jewish family, surrounded by predominantly Latino neighbors. Hidary has appeared on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam and been a YouTube sensation, and she just released her first book of poetry, The Last Kaiser Roll in the Bodega, committing many of her poems to the page for the first time.

Hidary’s work reflects a combination of cultures, and a confusion of them. Her book’s first words, “L’chaim and salud,” sets forth her agenda, which includes embracing multiculturalism while remaining distinctly Jewish, and distinctly herself. Her poems often tackle confrontational subject matter. In one piece, Hidary realizes too late that the object of her affection harbors some negative stereotypes:

you don’t look jewish.”
he says it in this tone
that sounds like he’s complimenting me
and i say…
nothing.

should i fiddle on a f–kin’ roof for you?!
should i humor you with oy-veys and refuse to pay?

Many of Hidary’s poems are found in her one-woman show “Culture Bandit.” She tours constantly, and her poetic onslaught of YouTube continues to reach new audiences, both Jewish and not.

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