Alternative Journal #2 : LUSENET : M.Ed./International Falls : One Thread

Yezierska, Anzia.(1925). Bread Givers. New York, New York: Doubleday

This book was a required reading for cultural diversity class that I am taking. It is a fictional tale, although it is in some sense autobiographical of the author. The story takes place in the early 1900s. It is the story of a Polish, Jewish immigrant family and the conflict that arises as the old traditional ways are slowly and painfully giving way to the new modern American ideas. Poverty, rebellion, and the uncertainty of how to reconcile the new world with the old, are issues that the main character, Sara, has to contend with. She begins the story as a child and as she grows into a woman, the book details her feelings and observations. Her father is a traditional Jewish religious man, and spends his days reading and studying the Torah, endeavors not considered suitable for women. The females of the family are expected to support the family, live piously and obey so that through a man they may enter heaven. The women, although the breadwinners, are treated disrespectfully and as objects to be bought and traded. Sara suffers immensely as she fights the effects of poverty, discrimination, cultural assimilation, to emerge a stronger, self-assured individual who has experienced the freedom that America has to offer. She struggles to put herself through public school and eventually college, to become a school teacher. Her education and success does not leave her bitter or angry towards her father or her childhood, but opens the door to understanding and forgiving.

I found this book to be relevant to me both personally and professionally. Personally, I drew parallels to my own childhood. My own experience was not nearly as oppressed as Saras, but my fathers parents came from the old country Italy. My father was a product of that way of life. He was (and still is ) very religious and demanding as was the Jewish father in the story. A large part of him believes that women belong in the home with the children, cooking and cleaning and being good wives. I grew up feeling like I wanted to please my father, but wanted more than what he wanted for me. I could relate well to many of Saras feelings and reactions.

Professionally, this story was a good insight into the human spirit and what shapes it . Sometimes negative events or difficult circumstances can make a person stronger, if there is some goal in mind or some role model to help lead the way. In the story, when Sara was half-starved, out peddling herring to try and make money for the family, she was awestruck by a schoolteacher that walked by. She carried that vision with her through many dark moments. I feel that as teachers we are tremendous role models for children. I really dont think we realize how many children we touch or in what ways we influence them. This book reminded me that what we see on the outside of a child, can be quite different from what is on the inside. As a teachers it is our job to tap into children and help unlock the potential that lies within.

-- Anonymous, January 10, 1999

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