YESTERDAY: A Memoir of a Russian Jewish Family by Miriam Shomer Zunser

YESTERDAY: A Memoir of a Russian Jewish Family

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First published here in 1939, this memoir of life within the Pale and subsequent dispersal to America has an old-fashioned theatrical over-stuffedness about it that comes as no surprise when you learn the author's background: daughter of the popular Yiddish novelist Shomer (a Sholom Aleichem target) and the author of plays for the Jewish theater in her own right. Zunser's recollections center around vivid individual scenes, conflicts, and types. Reb Michel Bercinsky, the family patriarch in Pinsk (and Zunser's grandfather) raises with wife Yentel 24 children: the cast is large. Uncles and aunts, iconoclasts, homely daughters (the truly rending social crisis of an unmarriageable girl--since the younger children were prohibited by custom from marrying out of order), sibling rivalry, emancipation from the family's Hassidism, the squalor and disillusionment of the Lower East Side after a life in Russia of prestige and power. Zunser's feeling for history is careful, her style slow and flowery; and finally the family sits upright, as for a portrait: a defined and individual entity.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1978
Publisher: Harper & Row