"ONE OF THE FIRST EASTERN EUROPEAN JEWISH WOMEN AUTHORS WRITING IN ENGLISH": FIRST EDITION OF ANZIA YEZIERSKA'S PROVOCATIVE FIRST NOVEL, SALOME OF THE TENEMENTS, 1923, RARE IN ORIGINAL DUST JACKET
YEZIERSKA, Anzia. Salome of the Tenements. New York: Boni and Liveright, 1923. Octavo, original gold- and black-stamped pictorial blue cloth, original dust jacket. $4800.
First edition of the controversial first novel by Yezierska—of the major writers "on the immigrant Jewish experience, Yezierska holds a special place… no one has captured so well as she the struggle of the Jewish woman to find her own place in American life" (ANB)— a splendid copy in the extremely elusive original dust jacket.
Yezierska's Salome offers a striking glimpse into an "important historical moment." Her powerful and still controversial novel tells the story of a poor, immigrant Jewish woman and her marriage to a non-Jewish millionaire. Yezierska came to America as a child when her family fled pogroms in the Pale, and grew up in the dire poverty and sweatshops of New York's Lower East Side. As in all her work, including Bread Givers (1925) and her collection of stories, Hungry Hearts (1920), Salome's vibrant language is "a rich translation of Yiddish into English… Ostensibly a story about the pitfalls of gaining love by deception," the novel is a bold critique of the American Dream, the melting pot, and the prevailing class bias of the era's settlement houses. "One of the first Eastern European Jewish women authors writing in English" (ANB), Yezierska created an unforgettable heroine in Salome, a woman who sees herself as "consumed with hunger for heights beyond reach. I am the ache of unvoiced dreams… the unlived lives of generations stifled in Siberian prisons."
Among major writers "on the immigrant Jewish experience, Yezierska holds a special place… No one has captured so well as she the struggle of the Jewish woman to find her own place in American life, of the immigrant to balance the needs of the past against the potential of the future, and of the artist to maintain a sense of integrity in a materialistic world" (ANB). Drawing on Yezierska's life, an affair with John Dewey, and her close friendship with Rose Pastor Stokes, Salome's radical protagonist "refuses the fairy-tale of America's promised land." It is a tale of a "young woman with three strikes against her, trying to make her way in America, that wilderness in which she is lost" (Wilentz, Introduction to 1995 Salome). Yezierska's work also notably anticipates key themes of novels such as Wright's Native Son (1940) and Okada's No-No Boy (1957). To Vivian Gornick, Yeznierska remains "one of the great refuseniks of the world… She's an immigrant? She's a woman? Her hunger is voracious? intrusive? exhausting? Still she refuses." Her words "grab us by the collar. They shake and demand, compel and remind. Attention must be paid" (Introduction to 1991 Hungry Hearts). Coan, 177. Hanna 3927. Smith Y-19. Small owner labels to front pastedown and rear blank.
Book fine; scant edge-wear, fain soiling to bright about-fine dust jacket.