A Bintel Brief: Love and Longing in Old New York
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on April 20, 2014
My husband loved reading this, I did as well, and now I am buying a copy for my mom! A wonderful selection for anyone interested in Jewish culture and the immigrant experience. The graphic-novel style is perfect for bringing to life these stories drawn from A Bintel Brief (an advice column for new immigrants in the venerable Yiddish paper The Forward).
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on April 25, 2014
This book is a treasure. It's beautifully drawn, beautifully told. Liana Finck's brings back, and brings to life, a classic feature of the immigrant world - the Bintel Brief. I have now bought four copies - one for myself, three for my friends. My book club will read it in June, and I can't wait for the discussions.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Young artist Liana Finck has produced a graphic book about letters sent to "The Forward", a Yiddish newspaper published in New York City, after the turn of the 20th century. Her book, "A Bintel Brief: Love and Longing in Old New York", can be viewed as art, literature, and history.

The lower East Side of New York City was the home of thousands of Jewish immigrants who emigrated here from Russia and other eastern European areas. Mostly poor, they settled in the tenements and looked for jobs to support themselves and their families. "Greenhorns", as the newest immigrants were sneeringly referred to by other Jews who had been here for longer...at least one or two years in many cases, were also saving to bring their families over from the lands they had left. (These early immigrants were fleeing the Russian pogroms and though not known at the time, of course, bringing family over here in the first thirty or so years of the century saved them from the Nazi killing fields of the 1940's.)

The newspaper "The Forward" was a Yiddish piece-of-familiarity for these new immigrants. They could read the paper in their own language and the newspaper published helpful and timely articles for them.One of the most popular features of the paper was the "Bintel Brief", a column of letters written to editor Abraham Cahan, seeking his advise on points of assimilation. And what interesting letters Cahan received and answered. Letters that questioned American habits which seemed strange to these new immigrants. Questions about manners and love and history and almost anything that challenged these newcomers.

Liana Finck has taken ten or so letters and built a story around them. Beginning in today's world, she looks back on relatives who had saved copies of the newspapers with a selection of these letters. Her art work is excellent and the book is deeply touching to those of us who had relatives who made that long trek over a hundred years ago.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 26, 2014
A delightful book that arrived promptly and is giving great pleasure to the whole family. Glad to have it around
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 13, 2014
Really a hauntingly beautiful piece. Obviously evocative of a certain time, and the art is suffused with that nostalgia -- but the problems the letter writers describe are also so every day in their joy, pain and longing that the book is a wonderful visit to the past and present at the same time. I was transported reading it. Brava Liana Finck! (Or as the brief writers themselves might have said more properly, "A sheynem dank, Liana"
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 3, 2015
This is a wonderful book on the advice column of the Yiddish paper The Forward (now English language) where New York’s Jews could piss and moan about everything. The author uses simple drawings to illustrate the problems people wrote about, along with the events of the times. Keep in mind that Bintel Brief was from a bad time; New York’s Jews were living in poverty on the Lower East Side. It was a terrible neighborhood, crowded, polluted, and filthy. Families were very large, so the mothers were worn out from repeated pregnancies, and of course they had to work to feed all those kids. There was no public welfare at the time; you worked, or you went hungry. Therapy was unaffordable to most families, so this was the only alternative to talking to your clergyperson. The writers of this column were usually better educated than most Rabbis, so the advice would be a little more practical.

There have been other books on the Bintel Brief column, which ended in the 1970’s, but I think the last book was published in 1990. This fresh and vibrant comic about the column will keep the memory alive for years, in an era when few Jews still speak Yiddish. As for the Forward, it’s also a bit of an irony that the building is now high class apartments; by the 1930’s, the Jews had fled the Lower East Side in droves, and by the 1950’s it was not safe at night. My mother used to visit the building in the early 60’s, when they had a renowned kosher cafeteria in the basement, and she has fond memories of the place. But you couldn’t be there at night, even in the 50’s, because of all the junkies that came out of the woodwork. The paper itself is now in English, but not as much fun to read. It no longer celebrates Jewish life the way it used to, relying on stories about Israel’s bombings, or who’s donating the most money to UJA.

Perhaps when people have real problems in their lives, they’re more concerned with reading about good things? The Jewish community weren’t always financially successful in this country; there was a time when a lot of us lived in the “low income” area.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Do not pass this by! These wonderful,heartfelt stories are brilliantly illuminated by Liana's deeply moving artwork. This is a book you can look at many, many times. Absolutely tremendous!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Grew up in NYC in the 50's, & tho not Jewish, remember The Bintl Brief in the Forward. A good book.
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on December 20, 2014
First, I read Metzger's translation of the Bintel Brief letters. Against that backdrop, I read Liana Finck's *masterpiece.* Was it masterful because I already knew the stories? I don't think so. I would offer that her treatment of the topic of immigration should become a standard in the animated literary canon, alongside Persephone, (is that it??) and the Maus series.

I, too, will be buying copies of this book to gift to several friends whose parents or grandparents immigrated in the great wave of immigration before the US closed its doors to the Jews in the mid-1920's. a

Do yourself a favor -- if you have Jewish or immigrant heritage, 'gib a kuk' (Yiddish for 'take a look').
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on April 20, 2015
Really captures a lost world. I saw an exhibit of Finck's work at the Spertus center in Chicago, and I purchased the book there. The combination of art and literature is compelling and engaging. I only wish it were longer!
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