Glinter, Ezra (editor). “Have I Got a Story for You: More Than a Century of Fiction from ‘The Forward’”, Norton, 2016.
Forty-Two Stories In English for the First Time
“The Forward” was founded in 1897 and it is the most renowned Yiddish newspaper in the world. It was something of a welcoming mat to generations of immigrants to the United States, bringing them news of Europe and the Middle East as well as providing them with “sundry comforts such as comic strips and noodle kugel recipes”.
“The Forward” also published some of the most acclaimed Yiddish fiction writers of all time including Nobel Prize laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer, B. Kovner and as well as Abraham Cahan, Roshelle Weprinsky, Sholem Asch, Chaim Grade, Lyala Kaufman and Miriam Karpilove to name a few.
Taken together, these stories have a good deal to say about the human side of the challenges that faced Jews throughout this time— immigration, modernization, poverty, assimilation, the two world wars, and changing forms of Jewish identity.
Editor Ezra Glinter combed through the archives to find the best stories that were published during the newspaper’s 120-year history and he presents us with such diversified works as wartime novellas, avant-garde fiction, and satirical sketches about immigrant life in New York. He provides introductions to the thematic sections and short biographies of the contributors. The collection has been translated into English by today’s best Yiddish translators, who totally capture the sound of the authors and the subtleties of nuance and context. From the moment I began reading, I feel in love with the book. It takes us back in time through wonderful fiction.
The stories are diverse and share a collective meaning of giving readers a glimpse of the writers’ minds. Like the newspaper, the “Forward”, the stories are a record of human experience. Most of us are aware of what Jewish immigration was and that it included learning a new language, getting rid of old world ideas and habits and having another look at religion and family and work. Yet we see it differently in the stories here. Looking at stories closely, we get to see the psychological aspects of what it means to be a people. As Jewish immigrants became part of the fabric of America they embodied the newness of the country and the newness of their lives. There are stories that take us back to Europe by Bashevis Singer, Chaim Grade and Kadya Molodowsky but the authors were no longer parts of that world that they wrote about. The trips that they made to the old country were fictional and they were not yet ready to take on being total Americans. The stories are not sentimental and neither are they nostalgic. They face the dark reality of relocation. Editor Glinter tells us that what was been called the American Jewish experience was the result of trauma and it is this trauma that has caused tension between the culture of America and Jewish culture. It is our responsibility to fulfill the American dream and it is what brought so many people here. The Torah, when given to the Jews, it was not just for the generation present at the time—it was they and for all future generations and this is the opposite of what is known as the American dream. We have been challenged to not just live with tension but to thrive with it and it is all about being alive and telling our stories.
The stories in this collection contain life and art, personality and history, humor and pain. Together they are a record of who we are.