“This volume is not a chronological exploration of the Yiddish language in America. Instead, the editors offer portions of some of the major works of Yiddish literature, poetry, comics, and political thought, by writers including Isaac Bashevis Singer, Chaim Grade, Cynthia Ozick, and Sophie Tucker, among others. A delightful chapter concentrates on culinary offerings with some recipes included. Finally, a fascinating chapter focuses on the influence of Yiddish in Canada, Argentina, Cuba, Mexico, and Columbia, offering a glimpse of Yiddishkeit outside Eurocentric views.
VERDICT A wonderful compilation sure to please new and old lovers of Yiddish culture, Jewish history, and linguistics.”
Ilan Stavans is the Publisher of Restless Books and the Lewis-Sebring Professor of Humanities, Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College. His books include On Borrowed Words, Spanglish, Dictionary Days, The Disappearance, and A Critic’s Journey. He has edited The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature, the three-volume set Isaac Bashevis Singer: Collected Stories, The Poetry of Pablo Neruda, among dozens of other volumes. He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, Chile’s Presidential Medal, the International Latino Book Award, and the Jewish Book Award. Stavans’s work, translated into twenty languages, has been adapted to the stage and screen. A cofounder of the Great Books Summer Program at Amherst, Stanford, Chicago, Oxford, and Dublin, he is the host of the NPR podcast "In Contrast."
Josh Lambert is the academic director of the Yiddish Book Center and visiting assistant professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He’s the author of American Jewish Fiction: A JPS Guide (2009) and Unclean Lips: Obscenity, Jews, and American Culture (2014), which received a Jordan Schnitzer Book Award from the Association of Jewish Studies and a Canadian Jewish Book Award. His reviews and essays have been published by the New York Times Book Review, the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Haaretz, Tablet, the Forward, New England Public Radio, and many other publications.
"A wide-ranging, eclectic anthology of work by Yiddish writers. Stavans and Yiddish Book Center academic director Lambert 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.'... 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 are on the sand.’ [Cynthia] 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.”
“For many people, this will be a poignant, surprising, and engrossing introduction to the epic survival story of a singular culture, requiring no foreknowledge of Yiddish, by two of the field's luminaries. For those of us whose grandparents spoke and understood, and whose parents only understood—no need to explain that we do neither—this book is the way back to a language that once meant everything.”
—Boris Fishman, author of A Replacement Life and Savage Feast