This unprecedented collection brings together the major Jewish American writers of the past fifty years as they examine issues of identity and how they’ve made their work respond.
E.L. Doctorow questions the very notion of the Jewish American writer, insisting that all great writing is secular and universal. Allegra Goodman embraces the categorization, arguing that it immediately binds her to her readers. Dara Horn, among the youngest of these writers, describes the tendency of Jewish writers to focus on anti-Semitism and advocates a more creative and positive way of telling the Jewish story. Thane Rosenbaum explains that as a child of Holocaust survivors, he was driven to write in an attempt to reimagine the tragic endings in Jewish history.
Here are the stories of how these writers became who they are: Saul Bellow on his adolescence in Chicago, Grace Paley on her early love of Romantic poetry, Chaim Potok on being transformed by the work of Evelyn Waugh. Here, too, are Philip Roth, Cynthia Ozick, Erica Jong, Jonathon Rosen, Tova Mirvis, Pearl Abraham, Alan Lelchuk, Rebecca Goldstein, Nessa Rapoport, and many more.
Spanning three generations of Jewish writing in America, these essays — by turns nostalgic, comic, moving, and deeply provocative- constitute an invaluable investigation into the thinking and the work of some of America’s most important writers.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of Religion eBook: Who We Are|
|Release Date: 02-10-2010|
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|Publisher: Knopf Group E-Books|
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Who We Are
Starting Out in Chicago
What was it, in the thirties, that drew an adolescent in Chicago to the writing of books? How did a young American of the Depression period decide that he was, of all things, a literary artist? I use the pretentious term literary artist simply to emphasize the contrast between such an ambition and the external facts. A colossal industrial and business center, knocked flat by unemployment, its factories and even its schools closing, decided to hold a World’s Fair on the shore of Lake Michigan, with towers, high rides, exhibits, Chinese rickshaws, and a midget village in which there was a midget wedding every day and other lively attractions, including whores and con men and fan dancers. There was a bit of gaiety, there was quite a lot of amoebic dysentery. Prosperity did not come back. Several millions of dollars were invested in vain by businessmen and politicians. If they could be quixotic, there was no reason why college students shouldn’t be impractical too. And what was the most impractical of choices in somber, heavy, growling, low-brow Chicago? Why it was to be the representative of beauty, the interpreter of the human heart, the hero of ingenuity, playfulness, personal freedom, generosity, and love. I cannot even now say that this was a bad sort of crackpot to be.
The difference between that time and this is that in the thirties crackpots were not subsidized by their families. They had to go it alone for several years. Or at least until the New Deal (thanks largely to Harry Hopkins) recognized that a great government could buy the solution of any problem and opened WPA projects in many parts o