Read Arrogant Beggar by Anzia Yezierska Free Online
Book Title: Arrogant Beggar|
The author of the book: Anzia Yezierska
Edition: Duke University Press Books
Date of issue: February 8th 1996
ISBN 13: 9780822317494
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 22.54 MB
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Reader ratings: 6.3
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The target of intense critical comment when it was first published in 1927, Arrogant Beggar’s scathing attack on charity-run boardinghouses remains one of Anzia Yezierska’s most devastating works of social criticism. The novel follows the fortunes of its young Jewish narrator, Adele Lindner, as she leaves the impoverished conditions of New York’s Lower East Side and tries to rise in the world. Portraying Adele’s experiences at the Hellman Home for Working Girls, the first half of the novel exposes the “sickening farce” of institutionalized charity while portraying the class tensions that divided affluent German American Jews from more recently arrived Russian American Jews.
The second half of the novel takes Adele back to her ghetto origins as she explores an alternative model of philanthropy by opening a restaurant that combines the communitarian ideals of Old World shtetl tradition with the contingencies of New World capitalism. Within the context of this radical message, Yezierska revisits the themes that have made her work famous, confronting complex questions of ethnic identity, assimilation, and female self-realization.
Katherine Stubbs’s introduction provides a comprehensive and compelling historical, social, and literary context for this extraordinary novel and discusses the critical reaction to its publication in light of Yezierska’s biography and the once much-publicized and mythologized version of her life story. Unavailable for over sixty years, Arrogant Beggar will be enjoyed by general readers of fiction and be of crucial importance for feminist critics, students of ethnic literature. It will also prove an exciting and richly rewarding text for students and scholars of Jewish studies, immigrant literature, women’s writing, American history, and working-class fiction.
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Read information about the authorDate of Birth: 1885
Date of Death: 1970
Anzia Yezierska, the youngest of nine children, was born into poverty circa 1885 in Russian Poland. Her family immigrated to the Lower East Side of Manhattan around 1892. Immigration officials used the oldest child's name, Mayer, as the last name of the family and switched Anzia's name to Harriet, and so she became Hattie Mayer. After attending elementary school in the United States for only two years, Yezierska started working by selling homemade paper bags, sewing buttons, and rolling cigars. Later she worked in sweatshops and laundries. Yezierska quarreled often with her father, who devoted all of his time to Talmudic study and traditional ideas. Largely due to this, she left home in 1899 and rented a room at the Clara de Hisch Home for Working Girls.
Yezierska won a scholarship to Teacher's College, part of Columbia University in 1901. During college, she had to work in a laundry to pay for expenses not covered in the scholarship. She had little interest in domestic studies, for which her scholarship was granted, and she felt inferior to the American students at the school. She graduated in 1905 as a cooking teacher, but she did not remain a teacher for long because she disliked it intensely.
Yezierska married Jacob Gordon, but she left him the day after the ceremony. The marriage was annulled after six months, because she had refused to consummate it. Later that year she married Arnold Levitas, but the two quarreled often over money and housework. Levitas wanted Yezierska to play the role of the traditional wife, but Yezierska rejected being inferior to her husband. She became pregnant in 1912 and went to live with her sister on the West Coast, where she came to think of herself as a spokesperson for Jewish immigrants. Although she took a job as a social worker for Hebrew Charities in San Francisco, Yezierska was unable to support her daughter as a single mother and was forced to send her to live with her father.
She did not begin creative writing until 1913, when she was about 28, but she published her first story two years later in Forum Magazine. Yezierska returned to the east in 1917 but could only find part-time teaching jobs.
Fearing that she was a victim of class prejudice, she went to John Dewey, the dean of Teacher's College, for help. He encouraged her to write, allowing her to attend his graduate seminar and hiring her as a translator for a project. There was romantic interest between the two, which he ended by taking a three year lecture tour in the Far East. Characters like Dewey appear in many pieces of Yezierska's writing.
Yezierska's story, "The Fat of the Land," was called the best story of 1919 by Edward O'Brien. Hollywood offered $10,000 for the movie rights to the film, and Yezierska went to California, but she refused to sign the three year contract. A fellowship at the University of Wisconsin in 1929 allowed her to continue writing. Returning to New York, Yezierska became impoverished once again during the depression, and so she was able to join the New York Work Projects Administration Writers Project. In addition to short stories and novels, Yezierska wrote book reviews for the New York Times. She wrote her autobiography in 1950 and died forgotten in 1970.
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