My Russian Grandmother and Her American Vacuum Cleaner: A Family Memoir

Meir Shalev, trans. from the Hebrew by Evan Fallenberg. Schocken, $24.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-8052-4287-4
In this tender, hilarious memoir of his grandparents' early life as new settlers to Palestine, Israeli author Shalev (A Pigeon and a Boy) evokes all his idealism and disappointments in Zionism. A new GE vacuum cleaner sent by Uncle Yeshayahu in America underscored for the hard-working migrants from Russia to mid-1930s Palestine their poverty and their pride: while Uncle Yeshayahu had gone to Los Angeles to become a rich businessman, his brother, Aharon, and sister-in-law, Tonia, migrated to Palestine, resolved to plow the land, creating a socialist state and "foothold for persecuted and wandering Jews." However, it was undeniably backbreaking labor, especially for the author's grandma Tonia, a woman originally from the Ukrainian village of Rokitno, who is obsessed with cleaning the dust from her house and jealously guards the "svieeperrr" in the locked bathroom, never to use it again, mostly because it too will get dirty. The author joyfully remembers those days he spent as a boy with his grandparents in the bucolic Jezreel Valley, and in this quirky tribute commemorates the spirit of an exacting, tireless character who was "the purified essence of us all, for better and worse." (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 05/23/2011
Release date: 10/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 143 pages - 978-0-8052-4298-0
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-0-8052-1240-2
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