Arguing with the Storm: Stories by Yiddish Women Writers

Feminist Press at CUNY  2007


Discovery of a file of unknown manuscripts holds special appeal for booklovers. A combination of librarians, a Yiddish reading circle, and the Winnipeg Jewish Public Library have presented us with a gem—fourteen short stories, many previously published, all written by Jewish women, but hitherto untranslated from the Yiddish. “Storm’s” nine translators, four from the Winnipeg Yiddish Women’s Reading Circle, and five others, are all duly credited, in Tregebov’s preface.

Adding to her substantial introduction, Kathryn Hellerstein recaps biographical and critical details on every author/story, preceding each work with individual assessments—and occasionally intruding on their affect because her glosses are excessive. Photographs of the eight writers enhance the collection.

Each story shines. Relations with parents, siblings, lovers, the environs, the society, are all explored. They vary from Russia in 1875 to post-Holocaust, in Europe, Israel, Canada, and the United States. With extreme brevity, most convey a time, place, and emotion skillfully. Curiously, all reach somewhat the same level of reader involvement.

Author Rochel Broches, however, jolts the reader with her “Little Abrahams.” The longest of the fourteen stories, her topic and unsentimental terseness capture the reader. Broches’ presentation of the ghastliness of Czarist Russia and adjustments to it made by Jews choking on poverty lingers, overriding innumerable portrayals of shtetl society read before. This collection has considerable appeal.

This volume is part of the Reuben/Rifkin Jewish Women Writers Series, a joint project of the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute at Brandeis University and the Feminist Press at CUNY. Acknowledgements, bibliographical information, bibliographical information in Yiddish, glossary, introduction, preface.

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