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Beyond the Pale: A Novel
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Beyond the Pale: A Novel

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  697 Ratings  ·  88 Reviews
Winner of the Lambda Literary Award and the Ferro-Grumley Award: A beautiful novel about the strength of love and personal perseverance during the political fervor of the Progressive Era

Set in Russia and New York during the early twentieth century, Beyond the Pale follows the lives of two women born in a Russian-Jewish settlement who immigrate to New York’s Lower East Side
ebook, 406 pages
Published June 18th 2013 by Open Road Media (first published 1997)
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Jun 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought this was a lesbian romance novel but it's not. It's a beautiful and heart-wrenching novel that describes the life journey of jewish lesbian women at the turning of the 20th century.
The fact that the women happen to be lesbians is a beautiful secondary layer to the story.
The main focus of te author is to describe the rampant and generalised anti-semitism, sexism, racism and classism that existed at the time both in EU and the US.
It is a great novel and a beautiful surprise.
Jul 24, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My mom bought me this book and claimed she did not know it was about lesbians. Um, check out the author's last name…
Jun 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: jewish-history, lgbt
A great and unique story -- you don't often find a novel about Russian Jewish immigrant lesbian women (with some magical realism thrown in). The shifts in point of view felt awkward and confusing at times and it felt at times like the author tried to throw too many historical facts into the book (Triangle Shirtwaist, mention of the Bintel Briefs, Lillian Wald, etc.). However, as the descendant of Russian/Eastern European Jews who likely experienced many of the same events and difficulties the ch ...more
Feb 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book several years ago and it still stands out vividly in my mind as a rich story of Jewish immigration and lesbian lovers. The novel takes place in Russia and NYC's Lower East Side in the late 1800's and early 1900's. It is an epic history of Jewish immigrants and a beautiful story of the relationship between two women amidst the plight of immigration, antisemitism, and the labor and political movements of the early 20th century. It will soon be available in paperback.
Jul 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was given this book by the publisher for a fair review of the author's work.

Wow! What an amazing work of literature! I am so impressed after reading this book. I couldn't put it down for hours at a time.

The story begins in turn of the last century Russia and the lives of Russian Jewish women who start as girls and grow up in extremely difficult times of strife. The writing style is exceptional and brings you into the world that our women exist in. The world in Russia in the 1800s was more than
Feb 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was crying like a baby reading the end of this book !!!
I enjoyed the characters, storyline, the innocence of young love mirroring the older couples love for each other. Rose and Chava are cousins. Chava went with her family to America and settled in New York. The book opens with Gutke, a midwife, helping at Chava's birth. I was a bit confused when the book jumped back and forth between the two characters story. But Chava runs into Gutke in the city (small world isn't it) They go their seperat
Ashley Brown Durand
This is one of my all-time favorites. This is the first historical-fiction I have read, and now I am hooked. I haven't been able to find another book like it. It covered rascism, prejudice, war, child-labor, gender-issues, migration, transgender/lesbian/gay issues, everything! And it's a love story beyond that! And it does it all sooo well. I can't really say anything about this book that would do justice. Read it.
Oct 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are only a few long-form works of lesbian fiction I've ever really enjoyed. This is definitely one of them! Thanks Elana Dykewomon for your fully-realized characters and enjoyable prose, and lack of closeted lesbian police officers with commitment issues.
I very much enjoyed the first half of this book, although the second half wasn't quite as compelling. It made for a great book club selection and I found the struggle of Russian Jews to be a subject that I hadn't known much about. Although this book can usually be found in Lesbian Fiction sections, it's a novel about so much more than that- oppression, political activism, feminism, and finding your own path in life.

Favorite quote of the book:

"There's going to be trouble."
"Just from a piece of
Jun 24, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting novel of the Jewish diaspora between the late 1800s and World War I. Its unique perspective -- that of the feminine experience, and, in particular, the lesbian experience -- made it worth reading, even though I usually feel I have read enough about the diaspora, in general, over the years.

The three main characters are sympathetic and well-developed: Gutke, the midwife who has a special gift of "seeing" the future; Chava, whom Gutke delivered into this world; and Rose, Cha
Laura Nowlin
Jun 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're like me and learn history better when narrative is attached, check out this beautifully well written and researched novel of Russian Jewish immigration. Dykewomon takes lots of stylistic risks that work well, and the story told is utterly unique.
Aug 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks, jewish
Interesting story built around real historical events. The lesbian angle gave it an extra dimension.
I really really love this book.
4 1/2 Stars

This is an intense and often painful book to read, although it's full of humanity, deep insight, and heart. It's really more of a saga as it goes through 2 generations of Russian Jews from late 1800's to almost the 1920's.

It starts out with Gutke delivering Chava. Gutke is by then in her 40's and the first half of the book is about her life growing up as she reflects on it up to that moment.

The second part of the book is about Chava, a Rabbi's daughter, and her life from the point o
Christoph Fischer
"Beyond the Pale" is an amazing piece of literature, an almost epic historical novel that spans a comparatively short period oh history but covers a lot of ground.
The book tells the interwoven stories of Chava, a Russian girl that escapes a Russian pogrom, and that of midwife Gutke and her female companion who is dressed up as a man.
As we follow their lot through the exciting times and their journey from Russia / Bessarabia to New York we also follow the course of European and World History and
Mar 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Got to thinking about this book the other day when hearing a lot on the radio about the 100th year commemoration of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. This was a favorite among favorite works of historical fiction that I read in the 90's which has come back to me again and again in fragments over the years (which is saying something if you know how bad my memory is). Main character begins as an apprentice to a midwife in a Russian shtetl and ends up a labor unionist and suffragist in New York ...more
Apr 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent, under-read book. It is about love between women across generations and continents. It's also about Jewish experience in Russia and the U.S., and about the early labor movement. It's moving, not lecturey or overtly political (although it abounds with politics and values), and profoundly compelling. My mom recommended it to her book club at work, and she said all were deeply moved by it.
Jul 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars. Always nice to see historical fiction that steers clear of the ruling class! Given how many novels focus on the Romanovs, this one takes an especially refreshing alternate POV. There's some gorgeous writing here, and it feels very timely and immediate.
Mar 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All literate persons
This book started me thinking about the power of memory in the context of whatever reality might be. I remember these girls as clearly as the time I fell down a wet slide and bruised my butt. Which actually happened? Hmmmm.
Rachel Reaugh
Nov 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had no idea what to expect from this book, but I couldn't put it down. It was truly an epic, historical love story of unusual proportions. A must read.
Mar 28, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am only giving this 4 stars because it has been so long since I read it and I am not sure if I would like it AS much. I would recommend it though.
Mar 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
when i tell y'all i BAWLED
Johanna Markson
May 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beyond the Pale, Elana Dykewomon
The Pale of settlement was a large area in western Russia to which Jews were restricted from 1791 to 1917. In the Pale were cities and small shtetls where Jews worked, lived, loved, married, had children and practiced their religion. But in these lands there was also rampant Anti-Semitism and Jews had their land stolen from them, were forced to leave the only homes they knew, and were sometimes killed and their property destroyed during waves of progroms.
Within th
There were many worthwhile aspects to this book.
The characters were interesting and well developed. The main character, Chava was especially admirable and endearing for her intelligence, resilience, sensitivity and grit.
As a Jewish-American woman, this novel helped me better imagine the life of my grandmother's grandmother, and what possessed her to send her 9 year old son (my great grandfather) alone via steerage to America to save him from the pogroms of the shtetl. I also gleaned a glimpse o
Beyond the Pale is a wonderfully vivid Coming-to-America novel that illustrates the immigrant experience. Her story takes place at the beginning of the 20th century, but the broad strokes of which are still true today. Chava and her extended family come to the New World to escape persecution, but find that surviving in the big city is its own kind of challenge.

My younger self probably would have dismissed this book as "400 pages of nothing happening" because it isn't terribly plot heavy. Most o
Debra Duhoux
May 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mournful Beauty

It's hard to put into words the sadness this book brings but then words of hope and strength do come along like sun peeping through clouds. The story of Gutke and her transgendered partner cross paths with Chava and her lover Rose. Chava and Gutke's lives are forever entwined when Gutke is Chava's mother's midwife. It is she who delivers Chava. This is a story of Immigration to America. This is a story of hope and desperation of those immigrants who came here and made this country
Nikki Reed
This book was so amazing. The best book I think I've ever read.

It was so powerful, and insightful, and captivating. The characters were so strong and compelling I forgot I was even reading at times.

This book was Call the midwife + jewish culture/folk tales + magical realism + lesbians + early 20th century feminism + socialism and worker rights + women supporting women. It was everything I ever wanted in a book.

I highly recommend this book. I can't even say how meaningful this book is, it's to
Hope Milam
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book should come with a warning label. It'll make you cry. I rarely cry at movies or books. But this got me. Only problem was the perspective shifts were a little odd and hard to follow while reading at work on my phone. I'm sure in a paperback it's much easier. But man, have tissues at the ready.
Sterling Stutz
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is magic.
(nb: I received an Advance Review Copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley)

“My aunt sat at the kitchen table, sewing again. She watched the needle piercing the cloth, in and out: how many stitches in a life?” (p.308)

How many stitches, indeed? “Beyond the Pale” contains hundreds, thousands of stitches, which—when seen as a whole—form an amazing tapestry of life and love, sorrow and loss. The scope of this book defies what any three other novels combined offer, and it puts them all in ju
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Elana Dykewomon is an activist, an author, and a teacher and has a fiercely dedicated readership who have been eagerly awaiting her next novel for a dozen years. One of the finest thinkers—and writers—the women’s movement has produced, she has worked for the last fifteen years as an editor and teacher of composition and creative writing, both independently and for San Francisco State University. ( ...more
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