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Bread Givers

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  2,943 ratings  ·  274 reviews
This masterwork of American immigrant literature is set in the 1920s on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and tells the story of Sara Smolinsky, the youngest daughter of an Orthodox rabbi, who rebels against her father's rigid conception of Jewish womanhood. Sarah's struggle towards independence and self-fulfillment resonates with a passion all can share. Beautifully redesi ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published August 1st 2003 by Persea (first published 1925)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Juan
This book was assigned reading as part of a course on immigration policy within the US. The professor recommended it highly and told the class that it was a good read and that we would all find ourselves absorbed in the book once we got into it. Truth was spoken.
Bread Givers is the story of Russian Jew immigrant Sara Smolinsky and her desire and struggle to achieve the pinnacle of what it means to be an American; the opportunity to invest one's self in individual pursuits.
As with any book I re
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Valerie
May 30, 2008 Valerie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Young Women, College Students
Recommended to Valerie by: History Teacher
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nick
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kaion
I said it before, but it stands repeating: Coming-of-age stories of young women straining against social inequities are important to tell as long as such inequities exist. Bread Givers places this common narrative in the social context of a Jewish immigrant enclave of early 1900s New York City, and stands slightly above the middle of the pack with the intensity with which Anzia Yerierska imbues the novel.

It's said to be heavily autobiographical, and that's easy to believe. There's vividity to ho
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Lorri
Bread Givers, by Anzia Yezierska is a compelling book, not only in its vivid descriptions of life in New York City during the 1910s-1920s, but also in its look into an Orthodox Jewish family, and its standards. It is a coming of age story, of the youngest of four daughters, told through her narration.

The familial patriarch is Rabbi Smolinksy, and his wife is Shenah, who is in awe of him, despite her nagging manner. His interactions, decisions and doctrine influence his daughters, Fania, Bessie,
...more
Yinglin Chen
Sara Smolinsky, lives a hard life. No one in their family, can find a good-paying job in the family. With a household of 5, and having a small amount of wages being used for the family, Sara strives to make some money for her family. Her father however, is studying the "Torah" and is not looking for work at all. Every single day, he sits at home in his own private room reading the bible. Having to live in a poor family and a father that doesn't work due to his "learning", she decides to live her ...more
Allie
After being super pissed off through the first 140 pages of the father figure's tyranny, I began to have more patience for Bread Givers.

The most interesting thing was keeping in mind that it was not historical fiction but rather a semi-autobiographical novel published in 1925. So I think the reason that it is widely-read and -taught is that it had been a pioneer in English-language immigrant fiction. Tension between the Old World and the New, between generations--family vs. personal identity, o
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Jasmine Guo
The Long Way to Independence: A Book Review of Bread Givers

Persea,2003,336pp.,$9.99
Anzia Yezierska ISBN:0892552905

Wanting independence and freedom is everyone's wish. Everyone wants to live their own life without anyone controlling it. However, it is not that way for Sara Smolinsky. With her controlling and old world like father, Sara struggles to gain independence. Holding all her anger in as she watches each one of her sister fall into the traps of their father, Sara plans to make a stop. She
...more
Emily
Jan 30, 2011 Emily added it
Shelves: read-in-2011

If you are American, and probably even if you are not, you have heard this story before: determined immigrant leaves the Old World behind to seek their fortune in the New; working their way out of a life of crushing poverty, they encounter the prejudices of those better-established than they are, and struggle to find a balance between honoring the traditions of their family while at the same time becoming acculturated to their new, adopted country. Anzia Yezierska's The Bread Givers presents thi
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Elyse Ellinger
I have very mixed feelings about this book. I think the story as a somewhat autobiographical sketch of Jewish immigrant life in New York's Lower East Side in the early 20th century is fascinating. I was mesmerized yet horrified by the descriptions of the living and working conditions of the time. The portrayal of the values of the men in the book, so concerned only with themselves, was illuminating, but this in itself made it so hard for me to grasp. I cannot really begin to imagine what made th ...more
Geek Lee
what an unexpected book. at first it seemed as though this would be a dull read but it was very entertaining. the style and tone is so different and helps the reader remember the setting. while this is an old book, some of the themes are sadly still relevant, especially the struggle for gender equality.
Mayra
I am starting to wonder why I am assigned this for summer reading for tenth grade when I could have gotten this from the fourth-grade bookshelf. I guess it is a classic because of its being a true story, but the characters are all sort of one-dimensional and while the historical detail is very accurate, this book is just hard to get through largely because of the characters.Ahem. Meaning the father. It's clearly not just tradition that makes him into such a jerk. It's like he enjoys making peopl ...more
Joseph Stieb
In Better Angels of our Nature, Stephen Pinker describes literature as a "tool for empathy." Few books emphasize this point as well as Bread Givers. Yezierksa puts you in the shoes of a poor Jewish immigrant girl growing up in New York City under the tyrannical reign of her father. I'd love to use a number of inappropriate words to describe the father, but I'll stick to ones I feel comfortable saying on goodreads: hypocritical, fundamentalist, narcissistic, impractical, terrible with money, lazy ...more
Trever Bacon
This book is about the Smolinsky family, the family is on the verge of losing everything. The 3 daughters, Bessie, Mashah, and Fania don't have jobs. Mashah spends all the money she has to make herself look more beautiful. The father, Reb Smolinsky, doesn't work he spend's his everyday reading books and telling his daughter's what to do. When the mom Mrs. Smolinsky stresses out about the situation, the youngest daughter, Sara sell's fish and makes the family little money. Later in the book the g ...more
Ashley
I love books about immigrants during the early 20th century. The clash of cultures is fascinating. It's nearly impossible to comprehend a father sending his kids out to work and bring home every penny to him, while he sits at home reading his religious books. He then berates his entire family on a regular basis telling them how lucky they are for having such a devout father. It's infuriating, but of course one has to understand the behavior within the context of the religion and time period.
Jacque
This book, about a Jewish girl raised in the tenements on the lower east side of Manhattan in the 20's, was written by a woman who had herself been raised in the tenements and was published in 1925. I loved the feeling that this was not a well-researched book, it was written as the author had lived it. And while it may suffer from the embellishment and sentimentality of literature from it's time, I think that only adds to it's authenticity. I really loved it.
Ellie
I found the prose style difficult to get into but the book was well worth the effort! A fascinating portrayal of a Jewish daughter's struggle to find herself in the chaotic world of the 1920's where the much-vaunted wealth of the ruling classes did not reach that of the struggling working class, where women's rights were hardly recognized amongst the poor and the immigrant, and where patriarchy and religious oppression were powerful forces.
Toni
A pretty accurate portrayal of the Jewish immigrant life in early 20th century New York. That being said, and even understanding the culture of the day, it was hard not to get really annoyed (to put it mildly) with the characters - the ridiculously selfish, over-bearing father and the poor me attitude of each of the females in the book.
Becky
I really liked this book. Really. I felt like I was reading a biography and a very believable one of a Jewish immigrant family and how each member adapted or failed to adapt to their new country. Also, how past habits and thoughts hindered success of some. I was fully immersed in this book. A great read.
Melissa Aydana
Firstly, I read this novel for my ENG 102 class.

Having said that, I have to say; wow. I wasn't expecting this novel to be as relatable as it ended up being for me. "Bread Givers" starts off true to its immigrant theme and portrays a Jewish family living in extreme poverty set in 1920's New York. I honestly thought the novel, to my dismay, was going to focus heavily on how "evil" men are and how she rose above; this is in fact a novel considered to be under the feminist genre (although, for all i
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Patricia
If you want to FEEL how a protagonist feels in a story, then this is a story for you. If you can read about the sad lives of the Smolinsky women--at the hand of a selfish "holy man" who deserves a BAD father of the year award every year--without feeling enraged, sad, sympathetic, and wanting to go back in time and strangle a few people (men), well...I can't imagine you can. It's an engaging read, not a happy jaunt but educational in its historic telling of New York in the 1920s through the eyes ...more
Yulia
I read this in eighth grade English, the year we read books about monsters and girls coming of age, an odd dual theme for the year, no?
Lizzie
Aug 29, 2014 Lizzie marked it as to-read
For real all these multicultural NYC girls coming of age novels I've never heard of before are blowing my miiiiiind.

Basically, look out, book club. (WHY did I pick something right before learning about this list?)
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Still combing through the 500 Great Books By Women book list, which got set up as a Goodreads group, and tracking the demographics via spreadsheet (and so can yoouuu).
Whitney
This is a powerful book and helped me gain an appreciation for the small things in life.
Rachel Niemeyer
This is one of the most frustrating books I have ever read. But the story is worth the frustration. It's a story of a young girl trying to break free from a manipulating, lazy, tyrannical Jewish father who is content to sit at home and study the Torah while his family starves. Tradition trumps necessity and it made me want to scream. But the book paints a vivid picture of what Manhattan's Lower East Side was like for immigrants in the early 20th century. The poverty, the hopelessness and despair ...more
Grace
I love stories of overcoming adversity against the odds, of having a fighting spirit, of fighting tooth and nail against injustice. That is what this story is all about. The main character is born into a very poor immigrant family under the thumb of her overbearing, over righteous father who wants to control and dictate her life but not lift a single finger to provide for his family or set a proper example. She rebels and finds solace and purpose in education. She strives for an education to pro ...more
Ariel Marie
"Wow." That was how I felt after I first finished this novel. I regret selling the book after I bought it for one of my classes. It was the first time I read a book in a long time about immigration. The novel follows the life of a Jewish girl who comes to America. She lives in New York City and struggles with her faith.

Most novels that cover the loss of faith focus on tragic loss. Meanwhile, Sara is unsure about her faith due to tradition. At the start of the book, Sara is only ten years old and
...more
Callie
Three and a half stars. The writing style is quite simple and the plot is often maudlin and predictable. Still, there is something so sincere about this novel about a young Jewish girl trying to eke out an existence in the extreme poverty and squalor many first generation immigrants experienced in the early part of the twentieth century. This novel brought to mind Little Women and Fiddler on the Roof (four daughters to marry off). You are meant to intensely dislike their father who is painted as ...more
Mensur Ibric
Bread Givers
By Anzia Yezierska
297 pages
New York, NY
Scholastic, Point
ISBN # 0-89255-014-7
$ 7.95

Bread Givers By Anzia Yezierska is a great book about how a woman has many life struggles. Sara Smolinsky, the main character and daughter of an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi, was constanly reaching out for love and a sense of understanding from her father. Throughout the book, you realize and begin to understand the difference of her father living in the old world, while Sara is entering the new. Sara's father
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Dana
What I hated:

-The father is an absolute motherfugging piece of dip-shiz. Can he die? Please? He's just such an a-hole and a hypocrite just LET. HIM. DIE. AND. ROT. IN. HELL. -cough- Thank you.
-The mother died instead of the father. WTF IS THIS!?
-All of the characters were stupid and shallow and selfish. I didn't even like Sara that much.
-The whole book was just repetitions on how horrible her life is. She doesn't even really do anything to try and make it better until late in the book.
-All of th
...more
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Date of Birth: 1885
Date of Death: 1970

Anzia Yezierska, the youngest of nine children, was born into poverty circa 1885 in Russian Poland. Her family immigrated to the Lower East Side of Manhattan around 1892. Immigration officials used the oldest child's name, Mayer, as the last name of the family and switched Anzia's name to Harriet, and so she became Hattie Mayer. After attending elementary scho
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More about Anzia Yezierska...
Hungry Hearts Salome of the Tenements Arrogant Beggar How I Found America: Collected Stories of Anzia Yezierska Red Ribbon on a White Horse: My Story

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