Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Review: How America Changed Yiddish, and How Yiddish Changed America, by Ilan Stavans


How Yiddish Changed America, and How America Changed Yiddish,  edited by Ilan Stavans and Josh Lambert. Restless Books, 2020. Nonfiction.

If you are at all interested in the history of the Yiddish language this book is required reading.

We begin with the language as it originated in Europe- its origins and components, and then how it traveled to the Americas with the waves of immigrants and spread across the continents. The book covers its evolutions and uses in media, theater, literature and everyday life, including the ways it's still growing and changing. The book also covers the various efforts to document, preserve and standardize the language and literature in the modern era. Readers will learn about playwrights, musicians, actors, activists, labor movements, writers, linguists, book collectors, preservationists and ordinary people who keep the language alive. Communities from Brooklyn to Havana to Argentina get covered. It's really just chock full of information.

The book is full of excerpts from various works to illustrate the history, growth and ongoing power of the language and the culture around it. I read the book on audio and I would recommend you do it in print unless you must do books in audio (which is fine, it's still reading) only because it's basically an anthology peppered with narration and exposition, and the excerpts, which are plentiful and fascinating, would probably work better in print for most readers. But if you're an audio person knock yourself out.

I'm planning to buy a print copy for my own library and I really recommend it highly to anyone interested in the subject at all.


FTC Disclosure: I did not receive a copy of this book for review.

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