My Father's People: A Family of Southern Jews [NOOK Book]

Overview

Louis Rubin's people on his father's side were odd, inscrutable, and remarkable. In contrast to his mother's family, who were "normal, good people devoid of mystery," the ways of the Rubins both puzzled and attracted him. In My Father's People, Rubin tells "as best I can about them all — my father, his three brothers, and his three sisters." It is a searching, sensitive story of Americanization, assimilation, and the displacement — and survival — of a religious heritage.

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My Father's People: A Family of Southern Jews

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Overview

Louis Rubin's people on his father's side were odd, inscrutable, and remarkable. In contrast to his mother's family, who were "normal, good people devoid of mystery," the ways of the Rubins both puzzled and attracted him. In My Father's People, Rubin tells "as best I can about them all — my father, his three brothers, and his three sisters." It is a searching, sensitive story of Americanization, assimilation, and the displacement — and survival — of a religious heritage.

Born between 1888 and 1902 in Charleston, South Carolina, their father an immigrant Russian Jew, the Rubin children suffered dire poverty, humiliation, and separation when their parents became incapacitated. Three of the boys were sent to the Hebrew Orphans' Home in Atlanta for several years. Yet the sons all managed to build long, productive, even notable lives and livelihoods, becoming, variously, a newspaper editor, Broadway playwright and Hollywood screenwriter, businessman, and — in the case of Rubin's father — a far-famed long-range weather prognosticator.

Private people, reticent to discuss their painful early years, the Rubins were not easily knowable. Still, the author draws a strikingly candid portrait of each, using memories, stories, keen insight, and broad empathy — fascinating character studies full of individual propensities and peculiarities that together reveal the wider family resemblance. Although the Rubins were mostly nonreligious as adults, their family's rabbinical tradition and their experience as southern Jews were key to their vocational fervor and the lives they made for themselves. "They were Americans, and they were Jews," Rubin concludes. "These were enough."

Told with Louis Rubin's signature eloquence and wit, My Father's People is a testimony to the courage of immigrant southern Jews and their gifts to their chosen country.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Rubin's loving tribute to his paternal ancestors "a remarkable group of people" is as close to perfect as a family story gets. In gentle, matter-of-fact prose, Rubin, now 77 and one of the great lights of Southern letters, tells the stories of Hyman and Fannie Rubin, his grandparents, and their seven children. "What happened to them and to their parents must have been so distressing, so painful to remember, perhaps so deeply humiliating, that doubtless there was little incentive on their part to relive the memories of that time," he writes. "What happened" was that in 1902, 16 years after settling in Charleston, S.C., Hyman suffered a heart attack and became unable to support his family. Harry, the eldest child, was old enough to work. But Dan, Manning and Louis, 10, eight and seven, were sent to the Hebrew Orphans' Home in Atlanta for several years. Dora, Esther and Ruth stayed home. Eventually, Hyman was able to reunite the family. "[T]hey were a brave band, and what they did with their lives deserves to be recorded." Daniel became a successful playwright, Manning a newspaper editor. Years after illness robbed Louis of his ability to make a living in business, he became celebrated for his ability to predict the weather. Rubin's descriptions are affectionate, yet he doesn't gloss over their flaws, and as a result, those he knows best come alive for readers. 18 b&w photos. (Oct. 1) Forecast: This should have appeal beyond the substantial population of Southern Jews and their descendants. But those interested in Southern Jews (particularly in South Carolina) may also want to know about the exhibition catalogue A Portion of the People: Three Hundred Years of Southern Jewish Life, edited by Theodore Rosengarten and Dale Rosengarten (Univ. of South Carolina, $34.95 288p ISBN 1-57003-445-1). Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Another intelligent and companionable book from Rubin (An Honorable Estate, 2001, etc.), a family story "to try to understand who my father's family were, and what they meant for and about me." Rubin's grandfather Hymen, born in 1862, came to the US and settled ("probably in 1886") in Charleston, South Carolina, where he and his wife produced a family of four boys and three girls, one of them the author's father. Disaster struck, however, in 1902, when Hymen-a small merchandiser-suffered a heart attack and couldn't work, leaving the family destitute and his wife the sole caregiver for seven children. There was no alternative but charity, including having the three younger boys sent to an orphanage where for a few years they could be safely provided for. Hymen lived, not well, nine more years, his wife ten, but the children-as each finished elementary school-went straight to work to bring in money. The family's indigence and near collapse, though, Rubin emphasizes, was a frightening and humiliating thing that marked all the children and did as much as anything to shape their lives and characters. And what characters they were-intelligent, dutiful, hard-working, never self-pitying, all of them, one way or another, self-made. Only one sister married, and not well, though the lives of all were long and full. Two uncles became newspaper editors, and the third, also a journalist, was briefly successful as a playwright-and remained almost as fascinating to the young Rubin as he is to the reader. Rubin's father was a successful electrical merchant, but illness, in the 1930s, sent him into a new career too interesting to be told about here. A family album so deftly and perfectly done-with not aninstant of longueur-that not only do the people come alive, but so do their time and place as Rubin again proves himself one of the finest chroniclers of the American past.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807153536
  • Publisher: Louisiana State University Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/2002
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 139
  • Sales rank: 1,208,186
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author

Louis D. Rubin, Jr., is Distinguished Professor of English Emeritus at theUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, founder of Algonquin Books, and the author or editor of over fifty titles.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xiii
Prologue 1
1 A Family 5
2 Dora 18
3 The Patriarch 25
4 Riddle Me This 38
5 Strong Cigar 63
6 The Weatherman 96
7 Vocations 124
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