3: Excerpts from book review of "Bread Givers," the "New York Times," 1925.
Bread Givers received a very positive review in the New York Times soon after its publication. These excerpts highlight the importance of the relationship between the narrator, Sara, and her father.
Suggested Activities: Read the first excerpt with students. Ask them if they agree with the reviewer that “The character of Reb Smolinsky is magnificent, robust, full of contrarieties.” Ask: why would it be a good thing, as this reviewer suggests, for a character to be full of “contrarieties” or contradictions? Then turn to the scene discussed in this excerpt, on p. 13–14 in the Persea Books edition. What happens when Sara’s mother suggests that they move Reb Smolinsky’s books from the front room to the kitchen? Why might the book reviewer have focused on this scene in trying to illustrate the character of Reb Smolinsky? Why does the reviewer call this scene the Reb’s “first great surrender”?
Have students write a couple of paragraphs describing the relationship between Sara and her father, and then share their descriptions with the class. As a class, make a list of some of the opposite poles Sara and her father represent (e.g., new world and old world, future and past, modernity and tradition) and discuss how these opposites clash and also blur in the novel.
Now read the second review excerpt. Ask students: what does the reviewer mean by “She is the Reb translated into the American idiom”? Do you agree with that statement? In what ways are Sara and her father similar, despite their polarity?
Source: Anonymous, “Turbulent Folkways of the Ghetto in a New Novel” (The New York Times, September 13, 1925), https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1925/09/13/104186316.pdf?pdf_redirect=true&ip=0, accessed March 6, 2020.