6: Film excerpt, "Hungry Hearts," directed by E. Mason Hopper, 1922.
The 1922 film Hungry Hearts was adapted from Anzia Yezierska’s short story collection by the same name. While the film came out several years before Bread Givers was published, it addresses some of the same themes and is set in the Jewish ghetto of New York City’s Lower East Side. In this scene a family has just arrived from Europe to their new home; they are seeing America for the first time.
Suggested Activities: Ask students to imagine what Sara’s Hester Street neighborhood in Bread Givers looks, feels, and sounds like. Have them find sensory descriptions of the neighborhood in the text. Then watch the Hungry Hearts excerpt together. Does the picture of the neighborhood in the film match the descriptions in the book? How do the characters in the film react to their first moments in their new neighborhood?
While Bread Givers doesn’t depict the Smolinskys’ arrival in America, Hungry Hearts sheds some light on what their arrival may have been like. Ask students to think about what hopes the Smolinskys—especially the parents—may have had when they came to America and what realities they were met with.
Point out the similarity between the moment in the film excerpt when the daughter says, “Where’s the sunshine in America?” and the moment in Bread Givers (p. 9 in the Persea Books edition) when Reb Smolinsky barks at his wife “Don’t you know it’s always summer in America?” Ask students how they read the tone of the speaker in each instance: are they being sincere, ironic, hyperbolic, or something else? What do these moments suggest about the immigrant experience for families like the Smolinskys?
Source: Hungry Hearts, dir. E. Mason Hopper, 1922. Used with permission from the National Center for Jewish Film, Brandeis University.