book cover of City of Laughter

City of Laughter

A novel by

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.

City of Laughter follows a young queer woman stuck in a thicket of generational secrets 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.

Genre: Literary Fiction

Praise for this book

"City of Laughter is a bountiful, curious, huge-hearted celebration of desire and memory, illuminating the eternal, indestructible nature of queer inheritance, and reminding us yet again that history is folklore and folklore is history." - Elisa Albert

"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

"An absolute pleasure, a thrilling journey that endlessly finds new ways to surprise and delight, challenge, and enthrall. Very few debut novels are as ambitious as this; even fewer deliver on even their biggest promises so assuredly." - Matt Bell

"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

"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

"Temim Fruchter's debut novel is moving, funny, beautifully crafted, rich with insight, and wildly gripping. The queer Jewish femme multi-generational family saga I didn't know I needed!" - Andrea Lawlor

"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

"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

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