Cursing Columbus


The dream was always the same: I was back in Russia. My family was sitting around the Sabbath table: Mama, Papa, baby Hannah and my brothers Lemmel and Shloyme. I was telling a story about America—there were gold streets and chickens roosting in trees. Suddenly, Papa and I were on board a ship sailing far away. Ahead I saw the Statue of Liberty towering over the harbor of New York, but she raised her hand high above her head to stop us. I ...

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Cursing Columbus

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The dream was always the same: I was back in Russia. My family was sitting around the Sabbath table: Mama, Papa, baby Hannah and my brothers Lemmel and Shloyme. I was telling a story about America—there were gold streets and chickens roosting in trees. Suddenly, Papa and I were on board a ship sailing far away. Ahead I saw the Statue of Liberty towering over the harbor of New York, but she raised her hand high above her head to stop us. I looked around for Papa. I was all alone.

Then I woke up and remembered.

Papa and I had arrived at Ellis Island. For three years we had been living on the Lower East Side of New York. Papa worked in a sweatshop earning money to bring over the rest of the family, while I worked after school. I dreamed of the day our family would be together again.

And tomorrow, it would finally happen. Would they love America like I did or would they say "a curse on Columbus" because the New World brought them nothing but trouble and hard work?

Eve Tal was born in the United States, but lives on Kibbutz Hatzor in Israel. Cursing Columbus is her second young adult historical novel and is the sequel to Double Crossing, which is based on her grandfather's emigration story from the Ukraine.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This gripping novel, set in Mahattan’s Lower East Side in 1908, goes beyond sentimentality about the promised land of America to show a heartbreaking, sometimes brutal, daily struggle…A great title to prompt discussion about discrimination against new immigrants, now and then, as well as the valuable diversity newcomers bring." —Booklist

"Readers will find both characters and their situation sympathetic and will root for them to pull through." —Kirkus Reviews

"Alternating the viewpoints of Lemmel and Raizel, author Eve Tal, in the sequel to her award-winning Double Crossing, has created a vivid picture of the struggles and experiences of an immigrant family, from the assimilation process (Raizel’s family must change their names to sound more “American”) and financial hardships, to ultimately finding a place in their new home. Middle readers looking for a moving novel with a strong story will enjoy this book." —ForeWord Magazine

"The author encourages us to think about the tradeoff involved in assimilating in American society and giving up traditional customs. The book also comes with a handy glossary and recommended reading." —Teaching Tolerance

Nicole Barrick Renner
This follow-up to Double Crossing reunites the Altmans three years after Raizel and Papa's arrival. Eve Tal paints the realities of immigrant life in the early twentieth century in sharp contrast to the mirage that drew countless immigrants to the US. As the mirage dissolved, those once-hopeful newcomers began to curse Columbus for discovering the land that, as Tal puts it, "promised so much and brought them so little." This well-crafted novel does not, however, condemn false American ideals; instead, the double-voiced story explores the complex dynamics of a family forced to reimagine religious tradition, family loyalty, gender roles, and ethical codes in order to align with the expectations of a world that does provide opportunities—even if they are less than once imagined. Tal manages to resolve this tale of cultural, personal, and ethical dissonance in an uplifting and honest ending that honors both the struggles of the main characters and the real experiences of the immigrants whose memory it seeks to preserve. Reviewer: Nicole Barrick Renner
Children's Literature - Jennifer Waldrop
In Double Crossing, Raizel and her father made the difficult journey that took them away from their homeland of Russia, across Europe, and onto a ship bound for America. Cursing Columbus takes place three years after the conclusion of the first book. They have adapted to life in America by letting go of their life in Russia; Raizel now goes by Rose and her father is no longer as religious as he was before. When they bring the rest of their family to America, the separation between who they were and who they have become makes the transition difficult for all of them, particularly Rose. Alternating between the perspective of Rose and her younger brother Lemmel, Cursing Columbus explores their courage and heartache as they face the challenges of becoming a family again and finding their place in America. Rose and Lemmel are both powerful, well drawn characters that convincingly pull the reader into the life of an immigrant in New York in the early twentieth century. Reviewer: Jennifer Waldrop
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—In this sequel to Double Crossing (Cinco Puntos, 2005), brothers Lemmel and Shloyme, little sister Hannah, and Mama finally join Raizel and their father in America. Raizel, given the name Rose at school, must help them acclimate to their early-20th-century Lower East Side environment. She guides her brothers through their first days of school and her mother in the realities of a less religiously observant Jewish lifestyle. This first year of the family's reunion is difficult. Papa loses his job, and Lemmel's unrecognized learning disability hampers his bar mitzvah preparation. He becomes rebellious, skips school, and runs away to a life of crime on the streets. And Mama, in her Old World ways, refuses to acknowledge her daughter's dream to become a teacher. She expects her to drop out of school at 14, work in a factory, find a hardworking husband, and raise a family. Raizel's effort to juggle work, school, and a budding romance is deftly juxtaposed with Lemmel's precarious low-life existence. His ultimate arrest and trial shame the family, yet his truthful confession, sense of ethical behavior, and redemption bring them all together in an effort to right several wrongs and begin anew. Told in the alternating voices of Raizel and Lemmel, the story offers a realistic and poignant picture of a bygone time.—Rita Soltan, Youth Services Consultant, West Bloomfield, MI
Kirkus Reviews
It's 1908, and 13-year-old Raizel and her father have been living in New York for three years after finally being accepted at Ellis Island (their refusal and subsequent admission were chronicled in 2005's Double Crossing); now the rest of the family has arrived from the Ukraine. Little Shloyme adapts with ease, but Raizel's mother is horrified at how far her husband and daughter have slipped in their observance of their faith and customs, and 12-year-old Lemmel downright hates everything about his new life: School and his bar mitzvah lessons are just about impossible, because, try as he might, he can't read. The narrative follows the two older children, in alternating first-person narrations, as Raizel struggles to convince her mother that, in America, education isn't wasted on a girl and as Lemmel resists and then runs away to scrape by on the streets rather than shame his family. This sequel lacks the startling originality of structure and content that marked its predecessor, but readers will nevertheless find both characters and their situation sympathetic and will root for them to pull through. (Historical fiction. 10-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781933693590
  • Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2009
  • Pages: 264
  • Sales rank: 1,507,695
  • Age range: 10 - 15 Years
  • Lexile: 500L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Eve Tal holds a masters degree in special education from Long Island University and is completing a master's degree in Children's Literature from Hollins University. She moved to Israel in the 1970s, living Kibbutz Hatzor. Eve has published four picture books in Hebrew. Her first novel Double Crossing was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award.
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