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Shulamis Yelin.

Montreal, Vehicule Press, c1983.
158pp, paper, $9.95.
ISBN 0-919890-52-0.

Grades 8 and up.
Reviewed by Ralph Wintrob.

Volume 12 Number 2
1984 March

This book, as all good nostalgia should, casts a warm glow that dies slowly because the reader is reluctant to give it up for the colourless realities of our workaday world.

Yelin's world is the Jewish quarter of Montreal between the Wars. Each and every episode is taken directly from family experience. She figures in every one, but not a measure of pain or ugliness or despair ever enters the family scene. Only strangers, one would have to believe from this book, suffer the indignities of outrageous fortune. Father and grandfather are ever indulgent and wise. Mother is fragile, but ever hovering, overseeing each step of childhood growth making sure everything goes just right. Every character that comes to the house, the fruit-and-vegetable vendor is one memorable example, is indelibly etched in word and deed. The discovery that Shekspir is not Jewish when his works stand proudly in the family china cabinet in Yiddish was the most savage example of disillusionment in this young Jewish girl's development.

It is all too good to be true, the stuff of folklore. So, what made me keep on reading right to the very end and then wishing for more? Because that is the way some of my own must have lived not so long ago, and even though I know there was pain and suffering aplenty, it is the way we all would like to remember "the good old days."

The big question is: Are we doing our students an injustice to suggest that this was the nature of Jewish immigrant life half a century ago? Don't we owe them the honesty of a realistic, well-rounded picture? Sure, I guess so, but.. .oh, it was maybe just a little the way Yelin tells it. And she does tell it so well. And it's, well, you know, TRADITION!

Ralph Wintrob, Zion Heights J. H. S., North York, ON.
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