7: Excerpt from Leela Corman’s "Unterzakhn," 2012.
Like Liana Finck’s A Bintel Brief, Leela Corman’s graphic novel Unterzakhn explores Jewish immigrant life on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Unterzakhn was published two years before A Bintel Brief, and Corman’s graphic novel differs from Finck’s in key ways; notably, it is set completely in the past. The book traces the lives of twin sisters from when they are six years old in 1909 until they are young adults, almost fifteen years later. The storyline in Unterzakhn reveals some of the challenges particular to young immigrant women of the day, for example the ways in which familial expectations and financial strains limited their access to education.
Suggested Activity: Have students read this excerpt from Unterzakhn in which the twins’ mother, Minna Feinberg, who owns a corset shop, is approached by a local stranger who has taken an interest in one of her daughters. Ask students to think about how the conversation is presented on the page. What do we learn from the characters’ facial expressions and their body postures? Are there other visual clues in these images, perhaps in the background details or the way the lettering looks? Discuss the challenges young immigrant women might have faced at the time.
Then have students compare this graphic novel excerpt from Unterzakhn with the one-page excerpt from Liana Finck's A Bintel Brief in resource 3. How do the different styles and layouts affect what we learn about the characters in each of these stories? What difference does it make that A Bintel Brief is a first-person narrative, while Unterzakhn is not? How does this affect the reader’s understanding of the story and of the characters’ emotions?
Source: Graphic Novel Excerpt from UNTERZAKHN by Leela Corman, copyright © 2012 by Leela Corman. Used by permission of Schocken Books, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.