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Publisher's Summary

Nearly three million Jews came to America from Eastern Europe between 1880 and the outbreak of World War I. Filled with the hope of life in a new land, most were young, single, uneducated, and unskilled. Many were children or teens. They were, in a sense, unfinished citizens of either the old or the new world.

Within two generations, these newcomers settled and prospered in the densely populated Yiddish-speaking neighborhoods of New York City. Against this backdrop, Ruth Gay narrates their rarely told story, bringing alive the vitality of the streets, markets, schools, synagogues, and tenement halls where a new version of America was invented in the 1920s and 30s. An intimate, unforgettable account, Unfinished People is a unique and vibrant portrait of a resilient people's daily trials and rituals.

©1996 Ruth Gay; (P)1997 Blackstone Audio Inc.

Critic Reviews

"An enjoyable, easily digestible introduction to her parents' and her own generation's uneven and sometimes uneasy acculturation." (Kirkus Reviews)
"[This] memoir of Jewish life in the West Bronx in the 1920 and 30s....deftly blends personal remembrance and social commentary." (New York Times)
"Fields amplifies the book's primary strength¿the making comprehensible a culture that seems alien even to the children of the author's generation." (AudioFile)

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Very interesting and well done

I am not of Jewish heritage but I enjoyed this VERY much. It is well written and well narrated. I found the history of these immigrants and decendents to be very similar to most US immigrants yet very different and unique in their own ways. I highly recommend this and Part 2.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Perfect for audio

Great book. Period.
A very even look at a time and people that helped shaped America as much as any immigrant wave in our history.




1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Great book

This is exactly what I wanted. Informative and thorough on a subject that had always interested me: American Jewish history. Worth every penny.

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  • Anne
  • Gaithersburg, MD, United States
  • 05-27-13

Memoir of Growing Up in Immigrant New York

The title is misleading: it sounds like an objective history, but it's actually a memoir of growing up in the Russian Jewish community of New York in the 1930s.

Ruth Gay was the daughter of parents who had emigrated to America in their teens. As far as I can make out, she was born in the mid- to late-1920s. The book doesn't focus on herself, but rather on the day-to-day life of people in her community, with personal anecdotes used to enliven the story. This is history from the ground up, recounting how people lived by someone who was there.

I found it delicious light listening, touching and funny. My only complaint is that the author sometimes forgets that she is writing about a certain subset of the Jewish immigrant community--Russians, Poles, and other Eastern European Jews--and makes sweeping generalizations about all Jewish immigrants. My own family came from the old Austro-Hungarian empire, where life was the same in some respects and different in others. Eastern European Judaism, for instance, was strongly influenced by Hasidism, which was completely foreign to other Jews. Many were not religious at all.

The narrator was appropriately chosen in that she is a woman who can pronounce Yiddish correctly, but I found her tone of voice rather monotonous. I got used to it, however, and it didn't spoil my enjoyment of the book.