Rick's Reviews > Unterzakhn

Unterzakhn by Leela Corman
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Jan 16, 12

bookshelves: comics

Corman's absorbing book follows the lives of twin sisters Esther and Fanya, the children of Russian Jews, on the teeming streets of New York's Lower East Side. Beginning in 1909 when the six-year-old girls work alongside their seamstress mother, the tale follows each of their divergent lives. The young Fanya attracts the attention of the "lady-doctor" Bronia, who performs illegal abortions. Bronia teaches her how to read and mentors Fanya in the medical arts. Corman's evocative portrayal of health care for women in those pre-Roe V. Wade days effectively showcases why abortion must remain legal. Esther finds paying work for a woman who runs a burlesque theater and a whorehouse. While there, she learns about and eventually relies on her sexuality to find her place in society.
Unterzakhn (Yiddish for "Underthings") follows the twins throughout their lives, chronicling their loves, successes, failures, and losses, while exploring the roles -- sexual, intellectual, familial -- of women. Corman produces an exceptional portrayal, deserving much laudatory praise and acclaim, of immigrant and Jewish life on par with the works of Will Eisner and Art Spiegelman.
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