Over the years, many people have been under the impression that the
“America” of the twentieth century was a haven for “the tired” of the
world.Indeed, many have accepted the historical propaganda surrounding
the myth of Ellis Island, the old “cosmopolitan” New York, and the “simpler
days” of life for those fresh off the boat.
Unfortunately the actual lives of those “fortunate” enough to cross the
ocean in hopes of making new lives on American shores was quite
differentâ€"especially for European immigrants as a whole, and Jewish
immigrants in specificâ€"a fact that the writer Anzia Yezierska demonstrates
There is quite a bit of controversy surrounding the writing of
twentieth century Anzia Yezierska.Although today, many consider Yezierska
to be one of the greatest immigrant-genre writers of the twentieth century,
many in previous years considered most of the merit of her work to be of
historical, rather than literary value.Indeed, many critics have flatly
stated that her writing was “not very good,” (Ebest) a statement that, even
her supporters echo, “Yezierska’s partisans have responded by seeing her
stories as fictionalized memoirs and by extolling her ability to document
the immigrant woman’s experience.” (Ebest)
Of course, the danger in using Yezierska’s texts as “historical
material” is significant;;;after all, her daughter characterized her mother
as being “incapable of telling the plain truth.” (Henricksen, 255).
Therefore, it is absolutely essential to keep in mind the “fiction” of the
storyline, while absorbing the historical and social “essence” of the
immigrant experience as communicated in Yezierska’s writing.
Mary Dearborn wrote of Yezierska in her work, Anzia Yezierska and the
Making of an Ethnic American Self, “As a writer, Yezierska believed “her
mission was to mediate between her culture and…

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