A TIME TO REMEMBER: Growing Up In New York Before the Great War by Marie Jastrow

A TIME TO REMEMBER: Growing Up In New York Before the Great War

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Souvenirs of an immigrant childhood in New York, 1907-1917. Marie Grunfeld Jastrow, now 80, came over with Mama from Austrian Serbia to join Papa, who'd had a bad time of it at first, brazening out starvation on the Lower East Side before a job materialized (""a mitzvah,"" engineered by a neighbor). The German-speaking Grunfelds were Jewish, and Jastrow, unsettlingly, doesn't account for their easy leap into the mostly-Gentile melting pot of Yorkville; curiously too, Papa ""had no objections"" to working as plain ""Hermann"" in a firm with ""a policy against hiring employees with certain last names."" Money was scarce, but Mama was a canny manager. She'd buy a dress for half-price at Rosenberg's Dry Goods and cover the damaged spot with a bow; or she'd use the installment plan--as American as cans (and not half as mysterious as openers). Whenever they moved, it was Mama who'd find the place; ""It was always the 'place,' or the 'rooms'--never the 'apartment'."" And she had her own ideas about rent: ""Every February she argued for a reduction, considering how short the month was."" Jastrow, romantic about her territory, interleaves evocative Old-New-York sepia photos--but they, like the episodes she winds down with, could belong to anybody's past. When Papa becomes a citizen he casts his vote for Wilson because ""when you're poor, you're a democrat""; and when America joins the War he stops buying the StaatsZeitung--their immigrant days are over. And so, without a personal word, is the book, a minor entry in a crowded field.

Pub Date: June 25th, 1979
Publisher: Norton