The Story of Yiddish is a book that you will pick up and browse for a while, and come back to later for some more historical/hysterical stories of Jews as they wandered through the world, speaking the only language that tied them together. It does not proceed either sequentially by year or geographically by country — some readers will be irritated by this lack of organization. The story wanders back and forth from biblical times to the present, and back and forth from topic to topic, in no obvious sequence. The story references both “the shtetl’s untutored… shoveling drek” and the famous: actors, comedians, and authors. (You will discover that Steve McQueen’s first speaking part on the stage was a sentence in Yiddish.) One chapter, “Yiddish, or envy in America,” is devoted to the hatred of I.B. Singer by almost everybody else who wrote in Yiddish.
But be warned: this book will not help you read or speak Yiddish; it is not an academic study of the growth and dispersion of a language; it does not explain exactly how Yiddish saved the Jews. But you will read some amusing stories, and perhaps even learn some new Yiddish phrases to ridicule your enemies. Karlen includes a good number of Yiddish jokes and expressions, all translated into English, to make his numerous points. Acknowledgements bibliography, index, notes.