Anzia Yezierska

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Anzia Yezierska

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Fev 24, 2008, 6:50pm

I came across this author in an anthology I'm going through slowly called Voices of Liberty. I'd never heard of her, but enjoyed the story. Coincidentally, even before I got to the story in the anthology, a woman I met by chance at a jazz club looked this book over and said, "Oh, it has an Anzia Yezierska story in it! She was a very well known writer about the Jewish immigrant experience!"

Alerted to who Yezierska was by this chance encounter, I paid special attention to the story ("The Fat of the Land") and enjoyed it immensely. It turns out she was, indeed, very popular in the early part of the 20th Century, and even had her work turned into movies. So today I went to a couple of used book stores in my neighborhood of San Francisco. I was blown away by the coincidence of finding her short story collection "Hungry Hearts" in the bargain rack of the first store (and a 1920 first edition, at that) and a biography of her written by her daughter in the second store! So now I have these to books on my short stack of To Be Reads.

Is anyone else familiar with this author? I thought I was pretty familiar with the cannon of Jewish American writers. Guess I'm not as smart as I thought!

Fev 25, 2008, 5:00pm

never heard of her but i just attempted to "mooch" her from someone. sounds like a female counterpoint to Henry Roth.

Fev 25, 2008, 6:55pm

Yes. The Henry Roth comparison came to mind immediately to me, too. Especially since my wife had been reading his four volume novel recently. Here's some more on her, in case you're interested:

Fev 26, 2008, 7:02am

Her book The Bread Givers is a classic of Jewish immigrant fiction, and a very good read. :-) She is also anthologized in Inside the Hornet's Head: An Anthology of Jewish-American Writing.

Fev 26, 2008, 8:14am

i was just notified that i had sucessfully "mooched" The Bread Givers and it is in the mail. THank you for helping me discover another literary voice in the Jewish tradition.

Fev 26, 2008, 2:59pm

You're welcome! That's part of the fun of LT, in my view!

The whole thing is made even cooler for me by the fact that I came upon her by chance. Happened to be reading an old anthology that had her story in it, and happened to run into a high school English teacher (and in a jazz club!) who a) wanted to see what I was reading and b) had heard of Yezierska. That made me interested to find out more!

Fev 27, 2008, 8:24am

ROCKET- your chance meeting has the making of a good short story.

Fev 27, 2008, 12:48pm

Bert, in fact, I have an MA in Creative Writing, although I haven't written any fiction in a long time. AND, one of my New Year's resolutions is to write three short stories this year (next year the goal is to write three GOOD short stories). So you may be on to something!

Fev 27, 2008, 6:08pm

Rocket- I think it has possibilities...i write too, mostly a journal, although I have several story ideas partially developed, what I have always lacked is the discipline necessary to get the job day I am a pychotherapist so you can imagine the wealth of material I have available.

your set-up has echo's of Roth's Ghost Writer, Paul Auster,etc.

Fev 5, 2009, 6:49pm

I finally finished Hungry Hearts last night, which I read a story at a time over, obviously, an extended period of time. The stories are mostly (but not all) variations on a theme: a young Jewish girl in Russia dreams of freedom of the soul and intellect in America, but when she gets here finds instead only the soul-crushing reality of drudgery in the sweat shops. However, these girls never let go of their dreams . . . dreams of artistic freedom, romantic love or, in one story, simply a friend to share her emotions and experiences with. Sounds a bit corny to our modern sensibilities, maybe, but Yezierska is able to bore down so close to her protagonist's feelings with very simple language (although skillfully rendered into a believable but not impenetrable Yiddish accent) that the emotionalism is kept to a minimum. We get a true, if slightly overwrought, sense of what our grandparents (for those of us of relatively recent European immigrant stock) went through, the highs and lows of expectations, dreams and realities of the desperate dash to America. It should give many of us a firmer grasp on the bounties they earned for us to enjoy.

Mar 14, 2009, 4:23pm

I have two of her books- she was an amazing writer.