Lorraine's Reviews > Bread Givers

Bread Givers by Anzia Yezierska
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May 28, 12

bookshelves: list-2012
Read in May, 2012

I grew up loving "All-of-a-Kind Family", the story of poor Jewish immigrants in the tenements of New York, five girls cherished by their parents and encouraged to grow and have adventures and find their path in life. I'm sure the stories were somewhat idealized for the audience of children they were aimed at, but they provided a benign window on a different world than my Protestant, Midwestern, middle-class one.

This grim tale of the same era, same location, same culture, could hardly be more different. Of course, as an adult the tales of poverty and oppression should hardly be surprising, but the total selfishness and utter lack of sense, insight, and compassion of the father simply was repugnant to me. His emotional blackmail and ignorance overshadowed his so-called "holiness" and I could not sympathize with him at all.

On the other hand, the character of Sara was charming. Her determination to escape, her intelligence, hard work and sacrifice, really won my heart. When she finally comes into her own, it is a moment truly worth savoring.

Was the world really that horrible at that time? The lack of kindness, of sympathy, just seems so extreme that it's a little difficult to relate to. On the other hand, literature from every age proclaims that being poor, female, dependent, immigrant, strange, powerless leads to being more and more downtrodden, even by your own family.

In the end, however, Sara overcomes her challenges and is on her way to a rich and fulfilling life.
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