This is not a review of Sarah Silverman’s new book, The Bedwetter: Stories Of Courage, Redemption, And Pee for a couple of reasons:
1) I haven’t finished it yet.
2) I’m not a huge fan of reviews because I like to make my own decisions about things and I’ve loved just as many bad things (movies, books, people!, etc.) as good.
That said, the cover photo (Sarah dressed as Chairman Mao) and the back flap (advance praise from small children) are very funny.
To be honest, I’ve only read a few pages but what caught my eye and inspired this post was something I saw on page 231. Writes Silverman:
“Winona Ryder was born Winona Horowitz but she changed it. What a classic sneaky Jew move.
I have a Jewy last name and I would never think to change it, but I totally get Winona’s choice. With a name like “Horowitz,” you’re no longer an actress, you’re a Jewish actress. Just like I’m “Jewish comedian Sarah Silverman.” For an actor, any modifier like that immediately creates limitations. Think of what the word “character” does when placed before “actor.” It denies that actor access to nearly all leading roles. You never hear “White actress Reese Witherspoon…” Eh. That’s probably an old observation but it’s true. I have comic friends who are gay. Some remain in the closet, and I don’t blame them. It’s not just out of fear of prejudice – it’s fear of the gay community taking ownership of them. Suddenly, they are a gay comic, saddled with the responsibility to represent.”
She goes on to say more about my surname (and other things) but since the book was just released today I’ll let you go to the store, buy it and read the rest.
I agree with Sarah’s point about the importance of names and my students know how frustrated I get when they say they’ll worry about the name of their characters or the title of their story later.
Names and titles are too important for that. When we name something we take ownership of it and define it. What if Luke Skywalker had remained Luke Starfighter or Annie Hall had stayed Anhedonia?
As an exercise:
What does your main character’s name say about them? What about your villain’s name? Would it make a huge difference if your character had a different name?