RUBY OF COCHIN: An Indian Jewish Woman Remembers by Ruby & Barbara C. Johnson Daniel

RUBY OF COCHIN: An Indian Jewish Woman Remembers

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This firsthand account of the Jewish community of Cochin, a town on the southwestern coast of India, fails to live up to its potential. The Cochin Jews have a wealth of tradition and folklore abounding in ghosts and spirits, as well as a caste system nearly as rigid as that of mainstream Indian society. Daniel was born in 1912 to a well-educated, middle-class family and received a good education. She served briefly in the Royal Indian Navy during WW II and had a solid career in the civil service before moving to a kibbutz in Israel, where she continues to reside today. Unfortunately, her story is a personal tale completely dependent on the telling for its interest. Penned by a competent stylist, it might have been vastly entertaining, but coauthor Johnson (Anthropology/Ithaca Coll.), who tape-recorded and arranged the conversations in which Daniel recalled her past, has been no help at all in giving them literary shape and texture. The setting is exotic; the folklore could have lent these reminiscences a Garc¡a Mrquez--like quality. But Daniel is anything but a natural storyteller: Her tale is overly episodic and unfocused; her language harsh and unmusical. As a historical narrative, Daniel's account is unconvincing because of her many grievances. Much of the text is devoted to denouncing her hometown's haughty ""white Jews,"" who scorned Daniel's own family as the descendants of slave women, and to tooting her ancestral horn. She also spends a fair amount of time criticizing the irreligious members of her kibbutz. For Daniel, this grumping may have been a therapeutic exercise; for the reader, it's merely tiresome.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1995
Page count: 204pp
Publisher: Jewish Publication Society