Beyond the Pale is a touching, lyrical story that follows two immigrant women from the Pale settlement in Russia to New York. Dykewomom presents a powerful look into the experience of being Jewish and a lesbian, while also looking at the greater immigrant experience against the backdrop of poverty. It's a treat to have the writer herself perform this audiobook. Because they are her own words, she easily captures the rhythms of the poetic language. Meanwhile, her voice is so loving toward the characters that is hard not to be swept away by this beautiful, moving audiobook.
Beyond the Pale - winner of the Lambda Literary Award - tells the stories of two Jewish women living through times of darkness and inhumanity in the early 20th century, capturing their undaunted love and courage in luminous and moving prose. The richly textured novel details Gutke Gurvich's odyssey from her apprenticeship as a midwife in a Russian shtetl to her work in the suffrage movement in New York.
Interwoven with her tale is that Chava Meyer, who was attended by Gurvich at her birth and grew up to survive the pogrom that took the lives of her parents. Throughout the story, historical background plays a large part: Jewish faith and traditions, the practice of midwifery, the horrific conditions in prerevolutionary Russia and New York sweatshops, and the determined work of labor unionists and suffragists.
©2003 Elana Dykewomon (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is into historical fiction, as this gives great insight into the experiences of immigrants in the early 1900's NYC as well as the oppression of Jews in Russian and elsewhere during that time period
the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire was as memorable as it was upsetting and difficult to read, though wonderfully written. Also the moments detailing the Pograms in Russia were painfully real, beautifully written and so tragic.Through her narration and writing you truly felt right there in the midst of the action, and you mourned the losses of loved ones right along with the main protagonist.
It was so incredibly authentic... these stories could have very well been her own stories that she is passing on to me, the listener
I was in tears toward the end, the factory fire... I challenge you to make it through that part of the book (after reading all of the events leading up to it) with a dry eye
I read this book years ago when it was first published, and I loved it then, and I love it now. Elana Dykewoman captures something essential about the immigrant experience - the cultural and political and emotional worlds they experienced, including unbearable trauma and tremendous joy. At the same time, her main characters are navigating the dynamics of belonging and exile and making new home in relation to learning how to be women-loving-women in a world where there is hardly even language and only the barest beginnings of community for them. It is about family and loyalty and being true to yourself in a changing world. And beautifully written.
That said... having an author-read book is always a bit risky. Elana Dykewoman gets some things absolutely right. She has the Yiddish inflection and expressions and pronunciation that are absolutely required for the characters' voices to feel authentic. What she doesn't have is voice acting ability to create characters whose voices sound different on the recording. So there were times when dialogue that would be clear visually on the page became confusing when listing - hard to know who was speaking. Especially where there are changes in who is narrating. Also, there were far more than the usual number of editing glitches - not a huge deal, but noticeable.
Because this book is probably thought of as "niche", I imagine there may not have been a substantial budget for hiring voice talent - so I'm glad Dykewoman made it happen anyway. Revisiting this story in a new way was wonderful, despite the less-than-ideal recording.
It is a very moving and difficult and beautiful story. Well worth it.
I love print books too, but in this case, yes. The reader/author included much authentic-sounding dialect in Russian, Yiddish, etc, that I enjoyed hearing her pronounce, rather than just having to guess at it myself, which tends to slow me down and break the rhythm of my reading. Listening to it gave me a much better sense of her characters, as well as of the languages.
The Triangle Shirtwaist fire, beyond question. Beyond my poor ability to describe, but absolutely unforgettable. I also enjoyed the tender moments between the two main characters, especially when they were in the camp.
Besides the pronunciation issue as I mentioned above, I felt the author/reader was truly invested in the story. There was a deep sense of historical perspective. I probably would have felt that if I had read the book as well but in listening to it, at times I got the sense of her barely contained outrage at various social/political/economic injustices.
Not really, although I listened to most of it on a long drive, so I had fairly lengthy sessions between breaks. With a book like this, I like a little time off to process the characters' experiences. But not too much!
Not typical of many book of this genre (lesbian fiction) in that it goes much deeper into the times and places than most. The romance aspect is very understated, as it would have been in those times, but still deeply felt. I graded the story down one star simply because there were a few times I would find myself ready for something else to happen (for the plot to move on) - but then it usually would. So not a book for those looking for some quick thrills, but if you're ready to spend some time and thought on an interesting story, this is the book for you. It still crosses my mind, months later.
It was savvy and to the point!...stories were great!
I liked how it was narrated, simple, easy and at times funny!
I'm Audible's first Editor-at-Large, the host of In Bed with Susie Bright -- and a longtime author, editor, journo, and bookworm. I listen to audio when I'm cooking, playing cards, knitting, going to bed, waking up, driving, and putting other people's kids to bed! My favorite audiobooks, ever, are: "True Grit" and "The Dog of the South."
When I first read “Beyond the Pale” I realized it had been a long time since I’d read any fiction with such scope and authority. Entire towns, entire histories brought to life.
What Dykewomon does so well is vividly animate the social geography of Russian Jews during the progroms; the experience of leaving the homeland, and of labor solidarity; and finding sexual identity in the New World.
Dykewomon reads her own work so beautifully, you’ll feel like she’s telling you the story spontaneously in your ear, dishing the dirt on the characters in the neighborhood.
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