Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Classics: The Bread Givers By Anzia Yezierska

As part of The Classics 2011 Reading Challenge, without hesitation, I quickly chose two novels by Anzia Yezierska.  During my graduate studies, I was introduced to Yezierska's collection of short stories, How I Found America, and was immediately captivated by this extraordinary author.  A young Jewish immigrant living on New York's Lower East Side, Yezierska managed to publish six books between 1920 and 1932.  As literary scholar, Alice Kessler-Harris so accurately explains in the introduction, Yezierska's constant themes are the dirt and congestion of the tenement, the struggle against poverty, family, and tradition, to break out of the ghetto, and then the searing recognition that her roots would always lie in the old world.  All of Yezierska's writings contain a sense of autobiograhpy but none more so than The Bread Givers.

The Bread Givers, immediately transports the reader back in time to the tenements of New York's Lower East Side during the early 1920's and the struggles of young Jewish immigrant, Sara Smolinsky. Caught between her old world values and her deep desire to become an "American", Sara's plight towards independence is heart-wrenching to say the least.  As Sara tries to break free from her dominating Rabbi father and Jewish traditions, she is soon faced with similar barriers in the form of greedy landlords, "sweat shop" bosses, as well as the prevailing prejudice against immigrants. During a period in American history when it was widely unacceptable to for a woman to be educated, Sara was convinced the only way to succeed and achieve the "American Dream" was through eduction.

I honestly cannot speak highly enough of this novel.  Yezierska provides us with so much more than a coming of age novel.  The pages are abundant with history, the plight of immigrants, and the struggles of women seeking equality and a sense of self-identity in a male-dominated society at the turn of the century.  Yezierska's writing was initially criticized for the use of "simple language" and Jewish dialect, and yet, it's these very characteristics that bring her writing to life.  A truly enjoyable read that I can easily give a 5!



  1. Hi there! I'm your newest follower! I'd lov it if you would follow back! I'm looking back through all of your book reviews and really enjoying them. I'll have to add them to my queue.

  2. I am a new follower from Thursday's Blog Hops...Happy Thurs.

  3. This book sounds fascinating and I really enjoyed your review! Thanks for sharing! I found you through book blogs and have enjoyed reading all of your book reviews and recipes.

  4. Such a great review Kimberly! You really make this book sound like an interesting one! I am now following you thanks to Friendly Friday, and it would be so nice if you could share the love back on my blog;)
    Also today we have the coolest blog hop there is... no rules just fun and would love you to join in with us at Boost My Blog Friday :) See you there! Happy Friday!

  5. Hi there.
    I'm stopping by via the Friday Hops to say hello and follow.
    Have a great weekend!


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