In “Select Clientele,” Sam writes short stories for magazines that run advertisements seeking “select,” “exclusive,” and “restricted” clientele. These euphemisms for exclusionary practices against Jews, African Americans, and other minorities were used commonly throughout the United States in the mid-twentieth century, when this story takes place. In fact the New Yorker itself ran advertisements like these during the same summer that it published “Select Clientele.”
Suggested Activity: Ask students to read the advertisements and analyze them as primary sources. You may wish to have them choose one ad to focus on, and to take notice of key words, images, and design choices that it employs. Then, ask them what their impressions are of these ads. What do some of these words—“select,” “exclusive,” “restricted,” “distinguished” —conjure for them?
Next, ask students to think of places where they feel comfortable and welcome. How would they feel if such a place was off limits to them? Have them write about a time they felt wrongfully excluded from something, or about how they would react if they were disallowed from a particular space or institution. How do these experiences compare to the experiences of Esther, Sam, and Max?