I picked this book out of our book cart – it caught my eye as I have been doing genealogy on my dad’s side of the family. My Grandpa Joe was also from Russia, also a Jew, also growing up in the Lower East Side, determined to get out. Most of the action in Bread Givers is set on Hester Street, 6 blocks from where my immigrant grandfather was living in 1900 (on Ludlow, down the street from Katz’s).
Bread Givers by Anzia Yezierska was originally published in 1925, and …”follows the story of a young woman struggling to live from day to day while searching to find her place in American society. Bread Givers earned Yezierska critical acclaim and respect as a mature artist. Bread Givers remains her best known novel.
Yezierska was born in the early 1880s in a region that had been Poliand, but at that time under Russian rule .My grandfather was a bit younger, born about 10 years later and 100 miles east. They both were living in the Pale of Settlements.
This was not a good time to be a Jew under Russian rule. Pogroms in the 1880s combined with more and more discrimination created a huge exodus. Yezierska’s family immigrated to the USA in 1890, my grandfather’ in 1893.
I think the Tenement Museum in NYC is great. But while you can see how cramped and miserable life might have been, you can’t hear it or see the dirt like you do in this book. For safety reasons, the museum’s halls and apartments have electricity and no one’s dumping household trash down the shared airshaft.
Again, I’d like to thank our book donors. Sure, I could have ordered online, but I didn’t know it existed until I saw it at the thrift store.