Remembered Lives: The Work of Ritual, Storytelling, and Growing Older

Barbara Myerhoff, Author, Marc Kaminsky, Editor
Barbara Myerhoff, Author, Marc Kaminsky, Editor University of Michigan Press $19.95 (387p) ISBN 978-0-472-08177-6
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Myerhoff, an anthropologist who died in 1985, is best known for Number Our Days , her Academy Award-winning documentary and companion book about the lives of elderly immigrant Jews struggling to maintain their identity in Los Angeles. These 11 essays, most with a strong academic bent, will appeal not only to anthropologists but to those interested in gerontology. One essay analyzes the combination of American and Jewish rituals in a ``graduation-siyum '' (Hebrew for ``completion'') for Yiddish history classmates at a Jewish senior citizens' center who had completed a course of study; the ritual, Myerhoff writes, fused ``disparate domains of experience,'' from the shtetl to America, sacred to secular. Another piece discusses how aging affects the sexes differently: immigrant Jewish women seem to become more active and expansive in old age, while the men withdraw. Most interesting are Myerhoff's reflections on her film and earlier book: on the conflict between her subjects' desire for visibility versus the professional dictum that their identities be disguised; the subjects' response to the film; and how she herself turned to this elderly community for emotional support. (June)
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