Library of Modern Jewish Literature

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Library of Modern Jewish Literature

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The Day My Mother Cried

and Other Stories

William D. Kaufman

The lasting charm of Kaufman’s stories lies in a delightful mix of personal incidents and observations set against an anchoring backdrop of cultural tradition. His new collection is filled with tales from his parents’ homeland in the Ukraine, his own childhood reminiscences, and his adult travels. We watch the young author forced alongside "every Jewish boy on the block" to emulate Yehudi Menuhin on a ten-dollar violin with a moldy bow until the boy is spared by an innate lack of talent and his father’s judgment of his concert: "Enough is enough is more than enough." Kaufman is carefully attuned to the awkwardness of adulthood as well as to that of early adolescence. In "Interlude in Bangkok," his narrator scours the city for a synagogue while pursued by a prostitute. Later he and a friend encounter Greta Garbo in a museum café and are too frightened to approach her. "I am not she," intones the mysterious movie star, and in his own way, Kaufman says that of himself in these stories through an autobiograp

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Dinner with Stalin and Other Stories

by David Shrayer-Petrov

These fourteen stories by the acclaimed master of Jewish-Russian fiction are set in the former USSR, Western Europe, and America. Dinner with Stalin features Soviet Jews grappling with issues of identity, acculturation, and assimilation. Shrayer-Petrov explores aspects of antisemitism and persecution, problems of mixed marriages, dilemmas of conversion, and the survival of Jewish memory. Both an author and a physician, Shrayer-Petrov examines his subjects through the double lenses of medicine and literature. He writes about Russian Jews who, having suffered in the former Soviet Union, continue to cultivate their sense of cultural Russianness, even as they—and especially their children—assimilate and increasingly resemble American Jews. Shrayer-Petrov’s stories also bear witness to the ways Jewish immigrants from the former USSR interact with Americans of other identities and creeds, notably with Catholics and Moslems. Not only lovers of Jewish and Russian writing but all discriminating readers will delight in Dinner with Stalin and Other Stories.

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Jonah and Sarah

Jewish Stories of Russia and America

David Shrayer-Petrov

From the deceptively simple narratives Apple Cider Vinegar and Hurricane Bob to the surrealist story Dismemberers and the magical tales Jonah and Sarah and Lanskoy Road, the tempo fluctuates, but throughout, David Shrayer-Petrov seamlessly preserves familiar voices. The stories have a genuine feel of the setting and epochthe Russian stories work as narratives of everyday life, while the American stories offer an accurate sense of an émigré's alienation.

Like all good works of fiction, these stories take on a mythic quality and transcend time and place. Each carries and communicates to the reader an aura of mystery, the enigma of love, and a meeting of Jewish past and present. Whether he invokes lyrical dialogue, gentle irony, or sharp polemical discourse, Shrayer-Petrov shows that he is a powerful presence in Russian and Jewish literature. For those interested in fiction about new immigrants to America or in the psychology of Jews in the two decades before the Soviet Union's collapse, this collection is a must read.

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Leaving Russia

A Jewish Story

by Maxim D. Shrayer

A memoir of coming of age and struggling to leave the USSR. Shrayer chronicles the triumphs and humiliations of a Soviet childhood and expresses the dreams and fears of a Jewish family that never gave up its hopes for a better life. Narrated in the tradition of Tolstoy’s confessional trilogy and Nabokov’s autobiography, this is a searing account of the KGB’s persecution of refuseniks, a poet’s rebellion against totalitarian culture, and Soviet fantasies of the West during the Cold War.

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Waiting for America

A Story of Emigration

by Maxim Shrayer

In 1987 a young Jewish man, the central figure in this captivating book, leaves Moscow for good with his parents. They celebrate their freedom in opulent Vienna and spend two months in Rome and the coastal resort of Ladispoli. While waiting in Europe for a U.S. refugee visa, the book’s twenty-year-old poet quenches his thirst for sexual and cultural discovery. Through his colorful Austrian and Italian misadventures, he experiences the shock, thrill, and anonymity of encountering Western democracies, running into European roadblocks while shedding Soviet social taboos. As he anticipates entering a new life in America, he movingly describes the baggage that exiles bring with them, from the inescapable family traps and ties to the sweet cargo of memory. An emigration story, Waiting for America explores the rapid expansion of identity at the cusp of a new, American life. Told in a revelatory first-person narrative, Waiting for America is also a vibrant love story in which the romantic main character is torn between Russian and Western women. Filled with poignant humor and reinforced by hope and idealism, the author’s confessional voice carries the reader in the same way one is carried through literary memoirs like Tolstoy’s Childhood, Boyhood, Youth, Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, or Nabokov’s Speak, Memory. Babel, Sebald, and Singer—all transcultural masters of identity writing—are the coordinates that help to locate Waiting for America on the greater map of literature.

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Yom Kippur in Amsterdam

Stories

Maxim D. Shrayer

Whether set in Maxim D. Shrayer’s native Russia or in North America and Western Europe, the eight stories in this collection explore emotionally intricate relationships that cross traditional boundaries of ethnicity, religion, and culture. Tracing the lives, obsessions, and aspirations of Jewish-Russian immigrants, these poignant, humorous, and tender stories create an expansive portrait of individuals struggling to come to terms with ghosts of their European pasts while simultaneously seeking to build new lives in their American present.

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