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by Abraham Cahan

Yekl and the Imported Bridegroom and Other Stories of the New York Ghetto

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“No American fiction of the year merits recognition more than this Russian’s stories of Yiddish life. … [Mr. Cahan] is a humorist, and his humor does not spare the sordid and uncouth aspects of the character whose pathos he so tenderly reveals.” — William Dean Howells
Yekl (1896), the novel upon which the highly successful film Hester Street was based, was written by Abraha

“No American fiction of the year merits recognition more than this Russian’s stories of Yiddish life. … [Mr. Cahan] is a humorist, and his humor does not spare the sordid and uncouth aspects of the character whose pathos he so tenderly reveals.” — William Dean Howells
Yekl (1896), the novel upon which the highly successful film Hester Street was based, was written by Abraham Cahan, editor of the prestigious Jewish Daily Forward for half a century. It is probably the first novel in English that had a New York East Side immigrant as its hero; reviewing it, Howells hailed Cahan as “a new star of realism.” The Imported Bridegroom and Other Stories came two years later.
The Jews that Sholem Aleichem described in their little old-world shtetl had emigrated; other tale-tellers were needed to describe the Jewish experience in the tenements and garment factories of New York. Cahan was one of the first to write about them in English. His book gives a better picture than most works of non-fiction of what immigrant life was like at the turn of the century. Cahan clearly delineates the clash of cultures and shows the innumerable problems, crises and dilemmas of acculturations.
In Yekl, the central problem derives from a social condition: the urgent desire of the hero to become a real American, to be less a “greenhorn”; but the play of events is around an emotional crisis; Yekl no longer loves the wife he left behind, who has now rejoined him in the new land, and who seems to him shockingly European.
In The Imported Bridegroom, the issue is apparently religious, a clash between traditional faith and secularism; but we are left wondering whether philosophy has not become commingled with sociology. Other stories deal with sweatshop life, romance in the slums, a wedding in the ghetto.

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Paperback, 240 pages
Published
June 1st 1970
by Dover Publications

More Details…

Original Title
Yekl and the Imported Bridegroom and Other Stories of Yiddish New York

ISBN
0486224279
(ISBN13: 9780486224275)

Edition Language
English

  • Yekl and the Imported Bridegroom and Other Stories of the New York Ghetto
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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain Moby-Dick or, The Whale by Herman Melville The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne Little Women by Louisa May Alcott Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

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Deborah Feingold

Jan 22, 2016

rated it
it was amazing

Shelves:
jewish-american-literature

So happy I had to read this book for a class. Somehow I thought these stories of the lives of Jewish immigrants in the US at the beginning of the 20th century would be saccharine but quite the opposite. We see characters whose lives are transformed in unexpected and sometimes shocking ways. The last story is the happiest and one in which we see the type of cheerful resilience I always thought to expect from these types of tales. In other stories we see Terrible disappointment and even betrayal.
So happy I had to read this book for a class. Somehow I thought these stories of the lives of Jewish immigrants in the US at the beginning of the 20th century would be saccharine but quite the opposite. We see characters whose lives are transformed in unexpected and sometimes shocking ways. The last story is the happiest and one in which we see the type of cheerful resilience I always thought to expect from these types of tales. In other stories we see Terrible disappointment and even betrayal. Wonderful details of Eastern European life as well as life in the Jewish “ghetto.” The challenges, risks, and opportunities ring true in general for all immigrants as well as for Jewish immigrants in this particular time and place.
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Irving Koppel

Jan 10, 2009

rated it
it was amazing


Abraham Cahan, author of “Yekl” and other stories, was the editor and
founder of the “Jewish Daily Forward”. In these stories of life among
the turn of the century immigrants in New York, he gives us many insights
into the problems these newcomers faced as they were torn between two
very different cultures. The ways they adjusted and faced their new lives
make for fascinating reading and insightful analyses.

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Shari

Jun 25, 2011

rated it
really liked it

Shelves:
graduate-school-books

I read “Yekl” and “The Imported Bridegroom,” but that makes up well over half the book, so I’m calling the book “read.” I enjoyed these stories but I wonder if it’s because the characters reminded me very much of my grandparents at times…

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Shea

Feb 12, 2013

rated it
really liked it

Shelves:
fiction ,
american-literature ,
jewish-literature ,
new-york ,
short-stories ,
19th-century ,
owned ,
american-northeast

I initially hesitated to give this book four stars, for the simple reason that Abraham Cahan’s prose is rather stiff — understandably, given that Cahan learned English in his twenties and, even then, wrote primarily in Yiddish. Perhaps this explains why his works of fiction, including the short novel Yekl (1896) and the short story collection The Imported Bridegroom and Other Stories (1898), presented here in one volume, have not enjoyed quite the same level of acclaim as those by other realist
I initially hesitated to give this book four stars, for the simple reason that Abraham Cahan’s prose is rather stiff — understandably, given that Cahan learned English in his twenties and, even then, wrote primarily in Yiddish. Perhaps this explains why his works of fiction, including the short novel Yekl (1896) and the short story collection The Imported Bridegroom and Other Stories (1898), presented here in one volume, have not enjoyed quite the same level of acclaim as those by other realist writers of his time, such as Stephen Crane and William Dean Howells. But if Cahan’s prose falls short of the more graceful writing of his contemporaries, his stories more than make up for it with their intelligence, gentle humor, and wonderful insider’s perspective on the experience of the Jewish immigrant in late 19th-century New York.

Cahan’s stories revolve around the trials and triumphs of various fictional inhabitants of the Lower East Side (referred to in the book as the “New York Ghetto”), all of them Jewish immigrants who fled from poverty or persecution in Europe to find freedom and fortune — or to sink even further — in America. An immigrant and socialist leader, who for a time supported himself by working in a factory, Cahan transports the reader back in time and into the tenements, sweatshops, and synagogues which still fascinate New Yorkers and visitors alike. For anyone with a particular interest in this chapter of American history, the first-hand experiences reflected in Cahan’s stories make them mandatory reading.

However, these stories are much more than historical documents, especially at a time when immigration is still a major political issue and a key part of the national conversation. The experiences of Cahan’s fictional immigrants still resonate, especially those depicted in the novel which opens the collection, Yekl. The title character finds himself caught between the kind of man that he has been and the kind of man that he wants to be: an assimilated American, one who has melted into the pot. His wife Gitl and their boarder Bernstein are a different type of immigrant — they are squares in a patchwork quilt, who slowly become accustomed to American ways while retaining Jewish cultural traditions — and Yekl (or Jake, as he prefers to be known) finds himself in conflict not with the larger American society, but with Gitl and Bernstein, the “greenhorns” who he feels are holding back his own assimilation into that society. Jake’s dislike of unassimilated immigrants and his pride in his own Americanization are ironic, given his heavily accented English, his sweatshop job, and the fact that he rarely ventures beyond the borders of the Lower East Side. He considers himself a “true Yankee” and looks down on those who are not, but his position in society and his anxiety about assimilation are reflective of the flimsy nature of the definition of a real American. Is Jake a “true Yankee”? Are Gitl and Bernstein? Or neither, or both? And when Jake makes the fateful decision to put a large part of his immigrant past behind him, does he really stand to gain more than he loses?

A similar unease about the pace of acculturation and the difficulty of holding on to Jewish values — or of letting them go — disrupts the lives of the characters in “The Imported Bridegroom,” in which a devout man struggles with the new ideas and changed behavior of his intended son-in-law, while his daughter, who encourages the young man in his endeavors, finds herself, like Jake, losing her grip on her vision of an ideal American life. The central figure of “A Providential Match” runs the risk of getting his hopes dashed in a romantic situation after both he and the family of his beloved experience drastic and rapid changes in their respective circumstances as a result of either immigrating to America or remaining in Europe. In these situations, and in those experienced by the heroes of Cahan’s other stories, assimilation is desired by immigrants and is often a source of intense pride, but it is also accompanied by unexpected tensions and pitfalls which the immigrants find themselves forced to navigate, with their varying levels of success often dictated by factors beyond their control. The stories of these characters remind the present-day reader, living in a society which seems to demand rapid assimilation from its newest waves of immigrants, that the process of “becoming American” has rarely been simple and straightforward.
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Arielle Masters

Mar 03, 2016

rated it
it was ok

Shelves:
1880s ,
early-1900s ,
1910s ,
new-york ,
usa ,
northeast ,
city-life ,
living-in-the-city ,
immigrant ,
immigration

Everyday life of new and recent immigrants in NYC around a hundred years ago. I read it to get an insight into what my great-grandparents’ lives might have been like – most of my family came from Eastern Europe to NYC between the late 1890s and the early 1920s.

There were a lot of great details about clothes, furnishings, workdays, working pay, sending money back to the old country, finding a spouse in the old country, after-work entertainment, and living arrangements (both with and without board
Everyday life of new and recent immigrants in NYC around a hundred years ago. I read it to get an insight into what my great-grandparents’ lives might have been like – most of my family came from Eastern Europe to NYC between the late 1890s and the early 1920s.

There were a lot of great details about clothes, furnishings, workdays, working pay, sending money back to the old country, finding a spouse in the old country, after-work entertainment, and living arrangements (both with and without boarders). The dialects were hard to follow in some places (I speak neither Yiddish nor Hebrew, although I know a few words of Yiddish slang). The stories don’t necessarily have predictable, happy, or surprise endings – some of them just seem to end.

The stories were very similar to those I read recently in another book of stories about poor NYC Jews around that same time, though with a lot more romantic rearrangements. I didn’t realize it was so common back then for couples to split up, or that so many became more or less secular so quickly after immigrating. It was fun to read about approaches to romance back then – in the workplace, at home, and via matchmakers.

I didn’t dislike the book, but I can’t really say that I liked it either, so two to three stars would be my rating.
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Cat

Nov 20, 2009

rated it
liked it

Yekl is a well written story about the Jewish Ghettos of New York. The frustrating main character, Yekl, is the epitome of an unsuccessful immigration. He comes to America and the more comfortable he becomes, the better he thinks he is. When he finally sends for his wife, he can’t even stand her presence. She is too foreign, not enough American for him. Its a great read to understand immigration to American.

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Traci

Nov 13, 2011

rated it
really liked it

I just discovered this realist writer, and as a Jewish immigrant himself, he has a true perspective to give. His stories are of Jewish immigrants in New York tenements (late 19th century) dealing with a life that is often harsh and destructive of dreams. I loved the realistic portrayal of the characters, the way Cahan didn’t idealize anything. It was full of pathos and some humor, but mostly it revealed the realities of life. And all humans can understand that.

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Maureen

May 22, 2008

rated it
it was amazing

Recommends it for:
Anyone
Recommended to Maureen by:
Erin
Shelves:
short-stories

Back around the time that the torch-bearing arm of the Statue of Liberty was assembled in Madison Square (as a way of raising funds to erect the rest of the statue), these stories were written. These are “slice of life” tales, beautifully elucidating the foreignness of life in New York for freshly landed Russian immigrants.

Well written, and definitely worth reading.

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Angel

Dec 24, 2013

rated it
really liked it

Yiddish literature

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Ivette

Jul 15, 2008

rated it
it was ok

This book is only interesting when viewed in its historical context, the backdrop of immigrant NY. I would NEVER read it outside of a mandatory class read.

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Ian Parfrey

Jul 08, 2008

rated it
it was ok

outside of “yekl” i have a hard time telling the other stories apart.

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Shannon

Aug 25, 2008

rated it
really liked it

Really cool! An awesome way to get a picture of what America was like for early immigrants!

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Tim

Mar 24, 2009

added it

Be prepared for a lesson in Yiddish.

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Kel Luken

Sep 23, 2012

rated it
it was amazing

Excellent. Thought provoking w/ regards to how it might feel immigrating.

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Heidi-Marie

Feb 20, 2008

rated it
liked it

Shelves:
fiction ,
for-school

I don’t remember much from the story I had to read for class, except for the impression that the guy was a jerk.

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Emily

Sep 29, 2008

rated it
liked it

Shelves:
ia-reading

(The Ghetto Wedding.) Meh.

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Jenna Los

Jan 28, 2008

rated it
really liked it

Shelves:
for-school-mla

This was a very enjoyable collection showcasing a subset of historic New York that I was unfamiliar with. They are short, easy reads for a drowsy Saturday afternoon.

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Meg

Apr 04, 2010

rated it
it was amazing

Shelves:
books-i-own

Abraham Cahan’s collection of stories provides a vivid window into the lives of Jewish immigrants living in Yiddish New York and has a broader, universal appeal.

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Kellie

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liked it

Feb 16, 2017

Mollie Connelly-MacNeill

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Feb 22, 2013

Kat Wilde

rated it
it was ok

Jan 23, 2010

Daniela

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it was ok

May 15, 2012

Matt

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Jun 14, 2008

Jenn Kilgallon

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Sep 22, 2014

Sara

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Aug 23, 2013

Amy

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May 26, 2013

Lori

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Jul 17, 2007

Jose

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Aug 25, 2013

Karen

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Jun 03, 2014

Jared Chipkin

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Jul 09, 2016

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About Abraham Cahan

Abraham Cahan
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Abraham “Abe” Cahan was a Lithuanian-born Jewish-American socialist newspaper editor, novelist, and politician.

Source: Wikipedia .

Books by Abraham Cahan

The Rise of David Levinsky
Yekl: A Tale Of The New York Ghetto
The Imported Bridegroom
A Sweatshop Romance
A Ghetto Wedding

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“Their future seemed bright with joy, while his own loomed dark and impenetrable. What if he should now dash into Gitl’s apartments and, declaring his authority as husband, father, and lord of the house, fiercely eject the strangers, take Yoselé in his arms, and sternly command Gitl to mind her household duties? But the distance between him and the mayor’s office was dwindling fast. Each time the car came to a halt he wished the pause could be prolonged indefinitely; and when it resumed its progress, the violent lurch it gave was accompanied by a corresponding sensation in his heart.”


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“This is not Europe where one dares not say a word to a strange woman! Nu, sir!”


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