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HOW YIDDISH CHANGED AMERICA AND HOW AMERICA CHANGED YIDDISH

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

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. 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Awards & Accolades

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


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  • IndieBound Bestseller


  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist


  • National Book Award Winner

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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NIGHT

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

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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