Allie's Reviews > Bread Givers

Bread Givers by Anzia Yezierska
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bookshelves: jewish, american-experience, coming-of-age, realistic-fiction, young-adult

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, obligation vs. freedom--these are all of the classic themes, acknowledged honestly and in very basic terms. The narrative is kind of melodramatic and repetitive (breathe, heart, & life are a few of the narrator's overused words :( ) with some (IMO) really nice pieces of prose in-between.

My favorite part is when Sara decides to go to college and to be an independent woman. She'd broken free of poverty and patriarchy! I was inspired. If only there had been more of this and less of the father, hahaha!

Even at the end, I still couldn't forgive him. The author tries to describe him as a man simply trapped in the Old World and really all together innocent, but it's clear from his actions that he's not. He is a hypocritical, delusional, selfish, greedy poser who wants tradition to justify how he shamelessly exploited all of the women in his family. I believe that this fact totally undermines his role as a representation of Jewish tradition, if that is his role as we discuss it in literature class. I mean, even when there is this message of moderation and drawing out the best in American-ness, there is not too much of that for Jewish-ness (at least in the areas of philosophy & religion) because the father just turned off his children to Judaism that badly.

Finally, I must say that I would have been in love with Bread Givers when I was ten years old. Even then, there are better children's/YA books out there, but this one can be valued for its authenticity and place in history.
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Reading Progress

February 9, 2011 – Started Reading
February 9, 2011 – Shelved
February 9, 2011 – Shelved as: jewish
February 9, 2011 – Shelved as: american-experience
February 14, 2011 –
page 88
26.19% "This feels like a young adult book."
February 19, 2011 – Shelved as: coming-of-age
February 19, 2011 – Shelved as: realistic-fiction
February 19, 2011 – Shelved as: young-adult
February 19, 2011 – Finished Reading

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