6: Image, photograph of Miriam Karpilove playing guitar to friends, ca. 1920.

6: Image, photograph of Miriam Karpilove playing guitar to friends, ca. 1920.

In chapter 10 of Miriam Karpilove’s Diary of a Lonely Girl, the narrator’s friend Rae entertains a crowd of friends by singing Yiddish folk songs. Collective singing and social singing were a regular part of social life in the early twentieth century, and Jewish communities sang a large and eclectic repertoire of songs at public gatherings and events. 

In this photograph, Miriam Karpilove herself plays guitar for a group of friends. Karpilove admits in her letters that she does not have an excellent singing voice, but she enjoys performing, and music was a cornerstone of the social gatherings of the Bohemian circles she was a part of.

Suggested Activity: Before showing students this photograph, ask them to discuss the role of music in social interaction in chapters 10 and 11 of Karpilove’s Diary of a Lonely Girl. Does music bring the characters together, or are they each lost in their own thoughts as music happens in the background? What songs does Rae choose to perform and why? Does it matter that the activity occurs in a public park, and how does that help your students compare and contrast the private and public spheres in this novel?

Ask your students to examine this photograph of Karpilove playing guitar and compare it to Rae’s performance in chapters 10 and 11. What are these women trying to convey about themselves in posing for this picture, and how is it similar or different to Rae’s self-presentation?

Invite your students to choose a figure from the photograph and write a diary entry in the style of Diary of a Lonely Girl, recounting their perspective of Karpilove’s performance.

Source: Courtesy of David Karpilow.