The House of Memory: Stories by Jewish Women Writers of Latin America
FROM THE CRITICS
The Latin American Jewish characters in this fierce collection of 22 stories are all asking the same question: Who am I? To the Christians of Latin America, they are outsiders, essentially classless people who at best should be ignored and at worst reviled. Jews settled in Latin America because of pogroms and wars over the centuries, and these tales have been written by the daughters and granddaughters of those immigrants. Their stories take place all over the Latin American map--in Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Mexico, Cuba, Chile and Costa Rica--reflecting the heterogeneity of the Americas as well as the unique perspectives of the storytellers. The protagonist of "Gotlib, Bombero," by Barbara Mujica recalls his father's escape from Germany as he wrestles with his position in Chilean society, wondering if the local volunteer fire department will allow him to join. In Ana Vasquez's "The Sign of the Star," El as, a Chilean schoolboy, faces the agony of isolation and hatred as his religion sets him apart from his Catholic and Protestant classmates. El as is violently reminded of his difference, and his struggle and self-reflection ultimately lead him to a poignant and brave redefinition and re-creation of his complex identity. Composed in an innovative narrative style, Mexican writer Margo Glantz's entertaining story-memoir describes how she transforms herself from the daughter of poor Russian immigrants to a "well-heeled" woman simply by purchasing an expensive pair of designer shoes. A range of influences, from Isaac Bashevis Singer's folklorish tales to the Latin American traditions of magical realism, attest to the writers' geographical and ethnic backgrounds. But the power of memory and regeneration is the root of this story tree, as is the writers' determination to bear witness and lay claim to their heritage. (July) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
This unique anthology unites the voices of Jewish women writers of Latin America for the first time. In the 22 stories collected here, authors from Mexico, Argentina, Costa Rica, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Venezuela, and Cuba tell of their respective cultures and heritages. While once they spoke Yiddish, Polish, Russian, Hebrew, or Ladino, these women now speak Spanish and Portuguese. Their stories focus mainly on the memory and identity of the worlds and countries they have left. In an excerpt from The Family Tree, for instance, Mexican writer Margo Glantz fleshes out the family past in Ukraine and considers the fate of the agricultural communities set up by the tsar for the Jews. Yet these stories also reflect an awareness of the Latin American society these writers have now joined. Highly recommended for all large collections.--Molly Abramowitz, Silver Spring, MD Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
The House Of Memory ( paper Jul. 12; 256 pp.; 1-55861-208-4; paper 1-55861-209-2): Another specialized collection assembled by the indefatigable Chilean writer and scholar, who is herself one of twenty contributors from nine Latin American countries whose work (fifteen short stories, five novel excerpts) is here displayed. Agosín's well-informed Introduction stresses the "hidden history" of Jews and women in Latin America, and offers helpful information about orthodox traditions and rituals dramatized by such virtually documentary portrayals of anti-Semitism endured as Teresa Porzecanski's "Rojl Eisips" and Alicia Kozameh's "Alcira in Yellows." Even better are hallucinatory, borderline-surreal tales like Margo Glantz's "Shoes" and Angelina Muñiz-Huberman's imaginative "The Portugese Synagogue." Not all the selections rise to the level of these four (and a few others), but the volume is an unusual and welcome one nevertheless.