Objects of Love and Regret: A Brook­lyn Story

  • From the Publisher
September 1, 2021

At a push­cart stall in East New York, Brook­lyn, in the spring of 1934, eigh­teen-year-old Sarah Schwartz bought her moth­er, Shen­ka, a green, wood­en-han­dled bot­tle open­er. Decades lat­er, Sarah would tear up telling her son Richard, Your bubbe always worked so hard. Twen­ty cents, it cost me.” How could that unre­mark­able item, and oth­ers like it, reveal the untold his­to­ry of a Jew­ish immi­grant fam­i­ly, their chances and their choic­es over the course of an event­ful cen­tu­ry? By unearthing the per­son­al mean­ing and his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance of sim­ple every­day objects, Richard Rabi­nowitz offers an inti­mate por­trait con­nect­ing Sarah, Shen­ka, and the rest of his fam­i­ly to the twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry trans­for­ma­tions of Amer­i­can life. Dur­ing the Depres­sion, Sarah — born on a Pol­ish bat­tle­field in World War I, scarred by pogroms, pressed too ear­ly into adult respon­si­bil­i­ties — receives a gift of French per­fume, her fiancé Dave’s response to the stig­ma of pover­ty. Lat­er we watch Dave load fold­ing chairs into his car for a state-park out­ing, sig­nal­ing both the post­war detach­ment from city life and his own escape from fail­ures to be a good provider” for those he loves. Beau­ti­ful­ly writ­ten, absorb­ing, and emo­tion­al­ly vivid, this is a mem­oir that brings us back to the striv­ing, the dreams, the suc­cess­es, and the tragedies that are part of every family’s story.

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