Dear Lizzie Memoir of a Jewish Immigrant Woman

ISBN-10: 0738839132

ISBN-13: 9780738839134

Edition: 2000

Authors: Leona Tamarkin, Elizabeth Reis

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Elizabeth Reis' INTRODUCTIONFor many years I have assigned my grandmother's story, Dear Lizzie, to my undergraduate classes in United States Women's History at the University of Oregon.  Few students know before they read it that Leona Tamarkin is my grandmother, and most are surprised when I tell them that this is my family's story.  Students cannot believe that, despite overwhelming adversity, the girl in the narrative grew up, had five children, that those children had children, and that I, one of those grandchildren, am standing in front of them, a living embodiment of family--and Jewish--preservation.My grandmother's story moved them to tears but more important for students of history, it gave immediacy and humanity to distant historical events.  The European events of the First World War seem as ancient as the Peloponnesian War to my students, so far removed are they from this tragedy. Dear Lizzie draws them in and enables them to enter this distant world.  Through Leona Tamarkin's memory, readers glimpse Europe's devastation during the First World War and gain an understanding of what it meant to emigrate to the United States in those postwar years.  Leona's story sounds like many of my students' own family immigrant stories (no matter where they are from).  She is self-educated, as so many immigrants of that period were, and the narrative's simplicity and naivete reveals the universality of a certain kind of childhood experience that was and is  shared by many immigrants.  Her writing has an easy spontaneity about it that suggests nature rather than artifice, the recounting of memory rather than the crafting of a story.Leona Tamarkin was fifteen years old when she came with her older  sister to America.  Her memoir begins when she was just a small girl in Brest-Litovsk, in Russian-occupied Poland.  Born in 1905, Tamarkin relates her experiences as a Jewish refugee, as the German and, later, the Russian armies entered village after village, forcing inhabitants to flee their brief havens and seek sanctuary elsewhere.  Tamarkin's story chronicles the hardships her family endured: her parents' divorce on the eve of her father's emigration to America before the war (decreed by the rabbi just in case her father failed to reunite the family in the New World), her mother's early death, her own and her older sister's and brother's near starvation as refugees.  The reader rejoices when, finally, her father finds their names on a Jewish social service agency's list and sends them money and tickets to America.      Tamarkin's memoir highlights one important truth about twentieth-century Jewish history in Europe: that it was not confined to Europe.  The dislocation of European Jewry during the First World War and its later devastation in the Holocaust is fundamentally part of American Jewish history as well.  In reading this powerful story, we are reminded  that "immigration" cannot be appreciated without an understanding of European events.  To challenge the adage on the nature of history, the past is not a foreign country; indeed, as William Faulkner wrote, "It's not even past."As a child, Tamarkin was aware of the seismic changes she faced, and her writing transports readers back to those frightening ordeals.  What makes her story exceptional is that she recollects the child's point of view so vividly.   The child's perspective and voice guides the narrative, carrying readers not only to the historical time and place, but to that time in our own lives when we were small children.  After Leona's  father divorces her mother and leaves for America, the small girl is embarrassed when her classmates tease her about not having a father.  Similarly, the agony she feels when made to wear a dress her mother fashions out of a red silk man's shirt paral
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Book details

List price: $20.99
Copyright year: 2000
Publisher: Xlibris Corporation LLC
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 108
Size: 5.75" wide x 8.50" long x 0.25" tall
Weight: 0.330
Language: English

Elizabeth Reis is Associate Professor of Womenrsquo;s and Gender Studies at the University of Oregon. She is the author of Bodies in Doubt: An American History of Intersex (2009) and Damned Women: Sinners and Witches in Puritan New England (1997).

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