cover image From Hester Street to Hollywood: The Life and Work of Anzia Yezierska

From Hester Street to Hollywood: The Life and Work of Anzia Yezierska

Bettina E. Berch. Sefer International, $15.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-60725-184-2

Author Berch (The Woman Behind the Lens, The Endless Day) reviews the life of Anzia Yezierska (1880?-1970), the celebrated Jewish-American writer dubbed the ""Sweatshop Cinderella"" for her fictional portrayal of immigrant Jewish women in novels and stories. Having emigrated from Poland in 1893, Yezierska went on to land a scholarship to Columbia Univ.'s Teacher's College and a job teaching ""domestic science"" in New York City schools. She became active in bohemian NYC socialist circles, where she met her first husband Jacob Gordon, as well as Arnold Levitas, who would father her illegitimate child. Her 1917 affair with eminent philosopher John Dewey (then a Dean at Columbia) opened the doors of the literary world to her. Based largely on her own experiences, Yezierska's stories are written in idiomatic English, artfully constructed to maintain the Yiddish flavor of her immigrant characters; her first story, published in 1919, launched a long and groundbreaking career (many of Yezierska's books, including story collection How I Found America and Hungry Hearts, are still studied in academia). Berch's faithful biography captures well this ""surprisingly modern woman,"" as well as her lasting influence and importance.