REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE: Stories About Being Jewish by Esther Hautzig

REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE: Stories About Being Jewish

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The often moving but sometimes chatty vignettes of a woman's childhood in pre WW II Lithuania. Rather than reinforcing any broad religious identity, these ""stories"" or episodes are about the author's particular family, setting, and circumstances. We meet an unusually wealthy family that worships art, creature comforts, and a cultural Yiddishism. A religious uncle is a curiosity; and so these vivid but chauvinistic stories are about being Esther Hautzig rather than ""About Being Jewish."" The strongest chapters portray the trials of Soviet deportation to Siberia (their banishment as capitalists saved Esther's family from Nazi extermination) and the suffering of those left behind to S.S. selections and mass killings. In this way, ""Being Jewish"" is narrowly interpreted as being a Holocaust victim. To rob the Nazis of one more victim, Hautzig's great-grandmother determinedly died in her sleep. Balancing off poignant moments like these, however, are too many self-patronizing passages about the gifted narrator and her adorable friends of similarly impeccable lineage. A fourth of the memoir is valuable reading, but decorative details and nostalgic frills reduce this to an overly provincial and self-conscious book.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1990
Publisher: Crown