Arguing With the Storm
Introduction by Kathryn Hellerstein
From the shtetl to the New World, from failed revolutions in tsarist Russia to the Holocaust, these Yiddish tales illuminate a lost world from a woman’s distinctive perspective. For decades, stories by Yiddish women writers were available only to those who spoke the “mother tongue” of Eastern European Jews. This translation brings some of the “lost” women writers of the golden age of Yiddish to English-speaking readers.
Their stories range from the wryly humorous—a girl seeking a wet nurse for her cousin brings him to a shiksa, with dire consequences—to the bittersweet, as a once-idealistic revolutionary now sees her hopes for humanity as “fantasy.” The title is from a poem that describes a widow arguing with a storm that threatens her harvest. It is a metaphor for the Holocaust, whose dark cloud was rising. Arguing with the Storm is a joy to read and a tribute to all those women, who, in arguing with the storm, fought to protect their families and way of life.
The anthology includes works by Sarah Hamer-Jacklyn, Bryna Bercovitch, Anne Viderman, Malka Lee, Frume Halpern, Rochel Bruches, Paula Frankel-Zaltzman, Chava Rosenfarb, and Rikuda Potash.
"These brave women of a century and more ago left us thinly disguised stories and actual memoir of the cruel times in which they lived. The result is . . . immensely readable."
"Each story shines. Relations with parents, siblings, lovers, the environs, the society, are all explored."
"What makes these [stories] so surprising . . . is not their foreignness but the emotional depths that resonate so profoundly . . . each [story] presents a kind of homespun clarity, a sophistication that comes not from cosmopolitanism but from the ability to accept a flawed but vitally alive world . . . these stories are charming and remarkably compelling. . . . The authors were unafraid to shine their lanterns into the dark corners of their own world, and the result is heartrending. This valuable collection is worth reading for its literary merit alone. But with so much of the vast Yiddish culture already lost to us, these stories are also valuable for their sociological insights into Jewish life of a not-so-distant era."
"From the tale of a grandmother who finds work in a munitions factory, to a memoir of the Dvinsk ghetto, to a love-story in a suburban old-age home, these affecting stories offer sometimes searing, sometimes touching glimpses into a swiftly disappearing mental landscape . . . and the lost world from which it comes."
"This collection not only adds to the body of work of writers already in translation . . . but also further expands the Yiddish canon with translation of four artists never before read in English. . . . What they all reflect collectively is women artists' passionate engagement with their Jewish communities and history. The stories and memoir depict revolution, gender and class conflict, acculturation . . . and Holocaust and post-Holocaust experiences."
“Since the 1980s there has been a concerted worldwide effort to revive the Yiddish language and its vast literary legacy. This Winnipeg inspired anthology is certain to add to that renaissance.”
“Arguing with the Storm is clearly a labour of love, a grassroots literary undertaking with broad literary appeal.”