28 October 2009

Books: Immigrants and émigrés

Tablet Magazine hit another home run again today, with Josh Lambert's column - On the Bookshelf - focusing on immigrants and emigres.

In his coverage of peripatetic Jewish families, he mentioned a slew of good books.

In Jacob’s Cane: A Jewish Family’s Journey from the Four Lands of Lithuania to the Ports of London and Baltimore (Basic, October) Elisa New tells the story of how her family "wheeled and dealed" its way through their connections in Lithuania, London, Baltimore and beyond.

[She] offers a reminder that the Jewish immigrant experience has been as various as the immigrants have been numerous, and that not all the Jews who arrived in America viewed it as a destination. “We imagine every immigrant a transplant from the rutted shtetl,” she writes, “his background pious, his experience thin, his hopes fastened on the new land to which he makes his way.”
Historian Walter Lacquer left Breslau as a teen in 1938, and lived in Palestine, London, and the US, which he covered in Thursday’s Child Has Far to Go: A Memoir of the Journeying Years (1993). His new book, Best of Times, Worst of Times: Memoirs of a Political Education (Brandeis, November), explores his encounters with Nazism, Marxism, Zionism, and the Cold War.

Kati Marton's Enemies of the People: A Family’s Escape to America (Simon and Schuster, October) covers recently opened Hungarian archives to tell her parents' story and emigration to the US in 1957.

[Her] parents were Hungarian children of privilege who became prominent international journalists thanks to their English fluency and ran afoul of the Communist secret police in the 1950s. Marton’s mother’s alleged crime? “Discussing the price of eggs (and meat) with the Americans.”
Lambert also mentions Marton's previous book, The Great Escape: Nine Jews Who Fled Hitler and Changed the World.

Tracing the Tribe thoroughly enjoyed (and highly recommends) Frances Dinkelspiel’s Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California (St. Martin’s, December, paperback), in which she describes her great-great-grandfather's role in developing the state's major industries.

[Her] great-great-grandfather never countenanced going anywhere but California when he left Bavaria in 1859, at the age of 16: he had relatives with a dry goods store in a tiny town called Los Angeles, and he aimed to join them.
German immigrant Walter Roth, in Avengers and Defenders: Glimpses of Chicago’s Jewish Past (Academy Chicago, September), views the records of Chicago’s past to uncover colorful Jewish characters who wielded extraordinary influence in his collection of historical anecdotes.

[It] introduces machers who innovated in advertising, mail order, radio, and the stockyards, as well as a number of influential Chicagoan scientists and jurists.
Journalist Miriam Pawel's The Union of Their Dreams: Power, Hope, and Struggle in Cesar Chavez’s Farm Worker Movement (Bloomsbury, October), reveals that although a number of Jews established the movement with Chavez, he turned against them in the late 1970s.

Lambert lists two novels: Jonathan Lethem's Chronic City (Doubleday, October), and Paul Auster's Invisible (Holt, November). One centers on New York's Upper East Side and the other on the Upper West Side.

The round up ends with The Enigma of Isaac Babel: Biography, History, Context (Stanford, November) edited by Gregory Friedin. Babel was sent to prison in 1939 and shot a few years later by Stalin's NKVD.

Read the complete article at the link above.

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