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Unfinished People: Eastern European Jews Encounter America Paperback – October 17, 2001

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

A touching and funny evocation...marvelous in its detail.... This is history as day-to-day living—irrevocable and unforgotten. -- Alfred Kazin

From the Back Cover

Nearly three million Jews came to America from Eastern Europe between 1880 and the outbreak of World War I. For the most part, they were young, single, unskilled, uneducated, and yet filled with hope of a new life in a new land. In Unfinished People, Ruth Gay fills in the rarely told story of the newcomers in New York in the 1920s and 1930s. Once past the first shock of entry, the young immigrants moved to their dream neighborhoods - in this case the Bronx - where they invented their own version of America. Reveling in the luxuries of steam heat and indoor plumbing, they rebuilt a familiar world of synagogues, schools, and stores, but with a difference. Using homely detail, Gay describes how they dared to become "up-to-date" Americans.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (October 17, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393322408
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393322408
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,223,720 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
I'm a Midwesterner, and yet, I love reading about Jewish history in New York City. I became interested 45 years ago, when I read an excellent book called "Mama Made Minks" about a Jewish immigrant family, where the parents were furriers.

Anyhow, this book is excellent. It really describes the immigrant's lives, and also their emotions and fears. The book first describes the conditions in Eastern Europe and the motivations for leaving. (Poverty and extreme restrictions against Jews). These people then worked extremely hard in the U.S. and also had to really change their culture. This isn't just a history lesson - it's personalized.
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Not long after beginning this book I exclaimed out loud "that's Aunt Ethel, that's Aunt Sophie". In her book Ruth Gay explains how an entire generation of immigrants who left Europe as children or teenagers had never actually "finished" growing up and how that affected them, their lives in the New World and their children. I wonder how much of this is true for today's immigrants as well. I truly enjoyed this book, more than most I have read of the genre, and strongly recommend it to anyone seeking to understand their immigrant past.
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