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Bread Givers: A Novel
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on August 29, 2015
Anzia Yezierska, the author of this novel, lived at an odd time in American history. A land that was comprised of truly nothing but immigrants had started to shun them decades ago, and people who were newly arrived from the Old World were seen as subhuman outsiders not worthy of the name "American". Irish immigrants in the mid-1800's had to endure signs outside of shops that read "no Irish need apply". The years had not improved conditions substantially for new arrivals looking in awe at the Statue of Liberty as they set foot on their new home soil. The environment Anzia Yezierska grew up in when she immigrated to New York City from Poland likely reeked of this disdain. Worse yet, Anzia was a Jew, a group of people that most Americans hated even into the mid-1900's. Given her unfortunate place in the world, it's not surprising to see why Ms. Yezierska would write a novel like Bread Givers.

On its face, this novel seems to be deeply depressing. The narrator is the youngest of four sisters, named Sara, who lives with her parents in a dim, cold, small apartment that they can barely afford. Her father is a deeply religious and "godly man" who refuses to work in order to provide for his family, instead relying on the wages of his daughters to support him, much to his daughters, and wife's, chagrin. Sara resolves from the start of the novel that she will find a way out of the slums that she lives in and into a meaningful life of work for herself, and not her father. She resolves to become educated, and ultimately wants to become a schoolteacher so that she can support herself, something that is far out of bounds from her fathers point of view. The novel deals with problems of family strife, as well as intense poverty and its effects on people.

This novel is arguably Yezierska's best work, and although it is sometimes slowly paced, the actual story is interesting and well told. Every sentence on the page does feel as though it had actually been lived by someone, as it is ultimately Anzia's own story that she is telling, with only minor variations. Anzia reveals to us through Sara what it feels like not only to be an outsider, but to feel the hunger and want for food that she felt as a child living in the slums, the rattling of ones bones in the cold winter nights as they don't have heat to warm themselves, or the domineering behavior of a lazy and abusive father.
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Really interesting and engrossing.
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on May 13, 2015
I had to read this book for a college course. I found it to be just ok? The writing did not flow as well as normal books and at times is was very slow reading. The characters were very frustrating for me, I know that this has traditions written all over it but I felt some of the characters were just lacking in development for me.
I understand that this is a true account of how immigration was at the time but I also feel that the writing just did not live up to other works that I have read that were on immigration.
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on April 29, 2015
A fantastic coming of age story. Filled with realistic challenges and it really teaches the reader the value of family, commitment and determination. Very well written, very well told and a beautiful piece of art.
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on April 27, 2015
I believe this was a awesome book that many Americans should read. It gave me a sight to see when it came to others.
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on February 27, 2015
Very well written and a quick read. The book gave me a sense for the life of a greenhorn in America
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2015
My book was missing the last twenty pages. Unacceptable.
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on February 11, 2015
ok
Given the assignment to bear children to the lowest part of society is negative evolution.
I wish people that touch subjects relative to evolution should study the subject firs before writing about it.
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on January 22, 2015
This story, written in the early 1900s, about a family of Russian Jews living on NY's Lower East Side is predicable in it's ending and melodramatic in it's writing style, but it is an important book in two ways. First it shows what lfe was like in the late 1800s, early 1900's, when people struggles to make a living and live in this country while trying to hold on to the old ways, the ways of the country they left behind. We see this in the father, who wanbted to do nothing but study the Torah while his daughters supported him. In Russia this was accepted, the idea of the full time scholor whose only responsibility was to read , study and pray. He cannot accept the fact that there is no room for study only, everyone has to work to succeed, and it drives him to make very bad choices.

It is also a book concerned with feminist ideas and ideals. The youngest daughter does not want the life where work is the only thing she has. She wants an education, will not settle for an arranged marriage, wants to be a teacher, wants more than to just support her family. It forces her to leave home and live alone, to break away from her tyrant of a father, to reject easy marriages, to work her way through college and to finall succeed at becoming a teacher. The story is predicatable, you know she will succeed and finally meet a good man, but she also learns you have to balance the past with the present and future.

A very interesting book, you just have to remember when it was written, and not compoare her writing style to something you'd see written today.
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on January 13, 2015
Great!
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