BORSCHT BELT BUNGALOWS

MEMORIES OF CATSKILL SUMMERS

For more than half a century, until about 1970, legions of middle-class Jewish workers and businessmen moved their families each summer from crowded New York quarters to Catskill bungalow colonies and communal settlements known as kuchaleins (literally: ``cook alones''). This is the colorful but hitherto scanted kuchalein story. Richman's (American Studies and History/Penn. State Univ.) family owned and managed a typical colony during the heyday of the bungalows. He fondly recounts seemingly everything about the business. Mothers and the kids would occupy the rustic mountain dwellings for ``the season'' (July Fourth to Labor Day) and fathers would appear, frequently burdened with provisions, for the weekends. (The provisions were often considered contraband because the owners, playing ``farmer,'' sold produce to the captive guests.) The story is knowingly presented from the point of view of the landlord, traditionally depicted as a penny-pinching villain, but here naturally presented in fuller dimensions. Along with business matters, there is much about traditional cuisine and amateur theatricals, kids' frolics, water and sewer arrangements, swimming in the Neversink, daily routines, and holiday practices. Particulars abound regarding sneaking into the grand hotels nearby or fishing for trout with rye bread for bait. There are descriptions of artifacts like cow flop, ice cream frappes, and flypaper. Richman's style is simple and direct. The text turns a tad wistful as he describes the scene today, dominated by coops with Hasidim and the newly Orthodox. Sure, the old days were halcyon, but the unrelenting sifting through the detail is like sitting in a schvitz (a sweat lodge with a Yiddish accent) with a genial but garrulous old uncle blessed with total recall. A pleasant Borscht Belt memoir, much like a Borscht Belt meal: excessive beyond nourishment, but hey, why not try a little? (62 b&w photos, not seen) (For the grander side of life in the Catskills, see Richard Grossinger's Out of Babylon, p. 1622.)

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 1998

ISBN: 1-56639-585-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Temple Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1997

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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