For readers unfamiliar with Yiddish writing, a revelation; for readers and aficionados of the language, a treasure.

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HOW YIDDISH CHANGED AMERICA AND HOW AMERICA CHANGED YIDDISH

A wide-ranging, eclectic anthology of work by Yiddish writers.

Stavans (Humanities, Latin American, and Latino Culture/Amherst Coll.; The Seventh Heaven: Travels Through Jewish Latin America, 2019, etc.) and Yiddish Book Center academic director Lambert (American Literature/Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst; Unclean Lips: Obscenity, Jews, and American Culture, 2014, etc.) have assembled an impressive collection of essays, fiction, drama, memoir, poetry, cartoons, and interviews, all showing how “Yiddish is so deeply woven into the fabric of the United States that it can sometimes be difficult to recognize how much it has transformed the world we live in today.” Arranged thematically rather than chronologically, the pieces are, in some cases, written by names that general readers will recognize: Irving Howe, Emma Goldman, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Allen Ginsberg, Cynthia Ozick, Grace Paley, Michael Chabon, Alan Alda, Leonard Nimoy, and Elliott Gould. Others will be news to many readers—and mostly good news. The editors provide a brief introduction to each major division of the text and to each contributor. The arrangement of the text is sensible, and the editors show us that American Yiddish writing expands well beyond the United States; they include pieces from Canada, Colombia, Cuba, and Mexico. Among all these are some stunners—e.g., “Oedipus in Brooklyn,” a story by Blume Lempel (1907-1999) that begins with the line, “Sylvia was no Jocasta.” Emma Goldman (1869-1940) writes fiercely about marriage, which she compares to an “iron yoke.” In a poem about Coney Island, Victor Packer (1897-1958) writes, “Beauty and crudity / Go hand in hand and / Launch a united front / Right there on the sand.” Ozick (b. 1928) compares Sholem Aleichem to Dickens, Twain, and Will Rogers. “He was a popular presence, and stupendously so. His lectures and readings were mobbed; he was a household friend; he was cherished as a family valuable.”

For readers unfamiliar with Yiddish writing, a revelation; for readers and aficionados of the language, a treasure.

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63206-262-8

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Restless Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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