Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Rachel Calof’s Story by Rachel Calof


Calof, Rachel Rachel Calof’s Story: Jewish homesteader on the Northern Plains, 153 p. Indiana University Press 1995. Language: G, Content: PG13. Finally, a memoir students will be willing to read! This book is the heart wrenching story of a young Russian girl named Rachel and her triumph over life’s challenges. Rachel was left a “half orphan” when her mother died, but when her father remarries, Rachel and her siblings are severely mistreated by their wicked step-mother. To save the family name, Rachel leaves the hardships of her native land to come to American to become the “picture bride” to Abraham. Rachel and Abraham “proof” a homestead in the Jewish settlement of Devils Lake, North Dakota. With little money and scant provisions, the young bride sets up housekeeping in a simple, one room, sod structure which they share for part of the year with Abraham’s parents. Together Rachel and Abraham face one trial after another, and yet these resilient immigrants survive both the internal and external struggles of life. The book was originally written in Yiddish as a personal account of her life and not meant for public viewing. Each page is full of end-notes and it is a bit distracting to have to keep referring to these notes, but to skip them would lose a part of the story. I would advise reading the Epilogue to gain a better understanding of the Jewish-American social history (although the final essay could be skipped). At the conclusion of this book the reader will have a greater appreciation for those powerful women settlers of this nation. MS-OPTIONAL, HS-ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Lorna Parkinson, Library-Teacher, HHS.

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