Yid­dish­lands: A Memoir

David G. Roskies
  • Review
By – November 10, 2011
David Roskies’ Yid­dish­lands, a mem­oir of his rela­tion­ship with his moth­er, the viva­cious and self-dra­ma­tiz­ing Masha, reads like a sym­pa­thet­ic Portnoy’s Com­plaint. Yid­dish­lands is split between two nar­ra­tives, David’s and Masha’s, and though they don’t always mesh per­fect­ly, Roskies is a live­ly sto­ry­teller whose gen­er­ous use of juicy anec­dotes keeps the read­er engaged.

The for­mat of Yid­dish­lands is casu­al­ly chrono­log­i­cal, tak­ing as its inspi­ra­tions Masha’s many songs and sto­ries. The book will be of spe­cial inter­est to any­one inter­est­ed in Jew­ish inter­war East­ern Europe. Appear­ances are made by some of the most impor­tant mod­ern Yid­dish poets and artists includ­ing Avrom Sutzkev­er, Morde­cai Gebir­tig, and Itzik Manger. 

But Yid­dish­lands is not lim­it­ed to the ever­shift­ing bor­ders of East­ern Europe. Rather, Roskies envi­sions a con­tin­u­ous, glob­al Yid­dish cul­ture, from East­ern Europe to North Amer­i­ca to Israel to the FSU. An impor­tant mod­ern schol­ar of Yid­dish lit­er­a­ture, Roskies, presents him­self in the image of his moth­er, at the cen­ter of an endur­ing, albeit dras­ti­cal­ly small­er, lit­er­ary tra­di­tion, and chal­lenges us to imag­ine for our­selves what is the mean­ing of mod­ern Yid­dish cul­ture. CD, CD lin­er notes, geneology.
Rokhl Kafris­sen is a grad­u­ate of two schools named after Jew­ish Supreme Court jus­tices. She is a prac­tic­ing attor­ney in New York City as well as work­ing on her first book: The Myth of the Yid­dish Atlantis: Dynam­ic Yid­dishkayt for the New Millenium.

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