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Grove Press

City of Laughter by Temim Fruchter (Paperback)

City of Laughter by Temim Fruchter (Paperback)

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Fiction - Literary - Jewish - LGBTQ+


A rich and riveting debut spanning four generations of Eastern European Jewish women bound by blood, half-hidden secrets, and the fantastical visitation of a shapeshifting stranger over the course of 100 years

An ambitious, delirious novel that tangles with queerness, spirituality, and generational silence, City of Laughter announces Temim Fruchter as a fresh and assured new literary voice. The tale of a young queer woman stuck in a thicket of generational secrets, the novel follows her back to her family’s origins, where ancestral clues begin to reveal a lineage both haunted and shaped by desire.

Ropshitz, Poland, was once known as the City of Laughter. As this story opens, an 18th century badchan, a holy jester whose job is to make wedding guests laugh, receives a visitation from a mysterious stranger—bringing the laughter the people of Ropshitz desperately need, and triggering a sequence of events that will reverberate across the coming century. In the present day, Shiva Margolin, recovering from the heartbreak of her first big queer love and grieving the death of her beloved father, struggles to connect with her guarded mother, who spends most of her time at the local funeral home. A student of Jewish folklore, Shiva seizes an opportunity to visit Poland, hoping her family’s mysteries will make more sense if she walks in the footsteps of her great-grandmother Mira, about whom no one speaks. What she finds will make her question not only her past and her future, but also her present.

Electric and sharply intimate, City of Laughter zigzags between our universe and a tapestry of real and invented Jewish folklore, asking how far we can travel from the stories that have raised us without leaving them behind.


Temim Fruchter is a queer nonbinary writer who was raised in a Modern Orthodox Jewish household. She holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Maryland, and has received first prize in short fiction from both American Literary Review and New South; she is a 2020 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer's Award winner. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

“A wondrous intergenerational story of queerness and Jewish folklore . . . Fruchter draws on folk tales both real and imagined to create a tender and unforgettable portrait of Jewish culture, faith, and community. This dazzling and hopeful novel is not to be missed.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“With prose that is erudite and alive, this fantastic debut novel explores queer love, first heartbreak, the loss of parents, and the deeply human desire for ancestral connection.”—Booklist

“City of Laughter is a gorgeous and full-hearted exploration of inheritance, grief, desire, and connection, at once a story about what it means to go looking for the ghosts we always knew were there and what it means to be in the right place to encounter the unexpected things we didn’t know we were waiting for. A sharply observed, tenderly complex, and wildly delightful debut by an original and impressive new voice.”—Danielle Evans, author of The Office of Historical Corrections 

“City of Laughter has the sparkle and fire of something truly rare. Deeply developed and carefully crafted, this novel is chock full of wit and tenderness and an incredible amount of heart. Temim Fruchter is a steady hand when it comes to assessing the deep tangle of fraught family dynamics. History sits inside itself here, its heartbeat echoing out into the future, rippling like silk. Without question, City of Laughter is one of the most thoughtful and thought-provoking books I've ever read.”—Kristen Arnett, author of the novel With Teeth

“Temim Fruchter's City of Laughter is deeply ambitious, deeply fun, queer mythological storytelling at its finest.  A powerful, profound, beautifully-told and thought-provoking debut.”—Jordy Rosenberg, author of Confessions of the Fox

“City of Laughter is a rich, lyrical portrait of four generations of unruly longings, a multigenerational tale of seeking, of laughter, of the sacred hiding in plain sight. Every line is haunted by loving ghosts.”—Zeyn Joukhadar, author of The Thirty Names of Night 

“Reading City of Laughter is like stumbling upon an heirloom treasure chest: richly imagined, painstakingly crafted, full of delights. In sonorous, inventive writing that pays homage to a glorious folkloric tradition, Fruchter gives us the stories of queer Jewish femmes through the varied generations of an unforgettable family.”—Sarah Thankam Mathews, author of All This Could Be Different

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