The Promised Land

The Promised Land

3.4 5
by Mary Antin
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

For the centennial of its first publication: a new edition of a seminal work on the American immigrant experience

Weaving introspection with political commentary, biography with history, The Promised Land, first published in 1912, brings to life the transformation of an Eastern European Jewish immigrant into an American citizen. Mary Antin

Overview

For the centennial of its first publication: a new edition of a seminal work on the American immigrant experience

Weaving introspection with political commentary, biography with history, The Promised Land, first published in 1912, brings to life the transformation of an Eastern European Jewish immigrant into an American citizen. Mary Antin recounts "the process of uprooting, transportation, replanting, acclimatization, and development that took place in [her] own soul" and reveals the impact of a new culture and new standards of behavior on her family. A feeling of division—between Russia and America, Jews and Gentiles, Yiddish and English—ever-present in her narrative is balanced by insights, amusing and serious, into ways to overcome it. In telling the story of one person, The Promised Land illuminates the lives of hundreds of thousands.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780143106777
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
06/26/2012
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
1,148,123
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER I Within the Pale

When I was a little girl, the world was divided into two parts; namely, Polotzk, the place where I lived, and a strange land called Russia. All the little girls I knew lived in Polotzk, with their fathers and mothers and friends. Russia was the place where one’s father went on business. It was so far off, and so many bad things happened there, that one’s mother and grandmother and grown-up aunts cried at the railroad station, and one was expected to be sad and quiet for the rest of the day, when the father departed for Russia.

After a while there came to my knowledge the existence of another division, a region intermediate between Polotzk and Russia. It seemed there was a place called Vitebsk, and one called Vilna, and Riga, and some others. From those places came photographs of uncles and cousins one had never seen, and letters, and sometimes the uncles themselves. These uncles were just like people in Polotzk; the people in Russia, one understood, were very different. In answer to one’s questions, the visiting uncles said all sorts of silly things, to make everybody laugh; and so one never found out why Vitebsk and Vilna, since they were not Polotzk, were not as sad as Russia. Mother hardly cried at all when the uncles went away.

One time, when I was about eight years old, one of my grown-up cousins went to Vitebsk. Everybody went to see her off, but I didn’t. I went with her. I was put on the train, with my best dress tied up in a bandana, and I stayed on the train for hours and hours, and came to Vitebsk. I could not tell, as we rushed along, where the end of Polotzk was. There were a great many places on the way, with strange names, but it was very plain when we got to Vitebsk.

The railroad station was a big place, much bigger than the one in Polotzk. Several trains came in at once, instead of only one. There was an immense buffet, with fruits and confections, and a place where books were sold. My cousin never let go my hand, on account of the crowd. Then we rode in a cab for ever so long, and I saw the most beautiful streets and shops and houses, much bigger and finer than any in Polotzk.

We remained in Vitebsk several days, and I saw many wonderful things, but what gave me my one great surprise was something that wasn’t new at all. It was the river—the river Dvina. Now the Dvina is in Polotzk. All my life I had seen the Dvina. How, then, could the Dvina be in Vitebsk? My cousin and I had come on the train, but everybody knew that a train could go everywhere, even to Russia. It became clear to me that the Dvina went on and on, like a railroad track, whereas I had always supposed that it stopped where Polotzk stopped. I had never seen the end of Polotzk; I meant to, when I was bigger. But how could there be an end to Polotzk now? Polotzk was everything on both sides of the Dvina, as all my life I had known; and the Dvina, it now turned out, never broke off at all. It was very curious that the Dvina should remain the same, while Polotzk changed into Vitebsk!

Meet the Author

Mary Antin was born on June 13, 1881, in Polotzk, Russia, the daughter of Israel and Esther Weltman Antin. Her father emigrated to the United States in 1891, and three years later the mother followed with the four children, arriving in Boston on the Polynesia on May 8, 1894. The Antin family eventually settled on Arlington Street in Chelsea, where Mary and the younger siblings started to go to public school; her older sister had to work as a seamstress. Mary Antin's teacher brought about her first published work, the composition "Snow," in the journal Primary Education.

Shortly after the transatlantic voyage, Mary wrote a long and detailed account of it in Yiddish for her uncle. Later, the philanthropist Hattie Hecht introduced Antin to Philip Cowen and Israel Zangwill, and the result was the publication of an English adaptation of the letter in the American Hebrew. In 1899, it appeared as a book that misspelled the name of her hometown, From Plotzk to Boston, with a glowing introduction by Zangwill. The essayist Josephine Lazarus—Emma Lazarus' sister—reviewed the volume for the Critic and became friends with Antin, who had been admitted to the prestigious Boston Latin School for girls. The family now lived in the Dover Street slum, and Mary associated with the South End Settlement House of Edward Everett Hale. She sat as a model for his daughter Ellen Day Hale, and became a member of the Natural History Club. There she met Amadeus William Grabau (1870-1946), who was finishing his doctoral work in geology and paleontology at Harvard. They were married in Boston on October 5, 1901, and soon took up residence in New York, where Grabau became a professor at Columbia University. Antin never finished Latin School, and therefore could only take a few college courses as a special student. Their dauther, Josephine Esther Grabau, Antin's only child, was born on November 21, 1907. Antin publshed short stories essays, and her books The Promised Land (1912) and They Who Knock at Our Gates (1914), which together sold more than one hundred thousand copies. After some successful years as a writer and Progressive lecturer, Antin suffered a nervous breakdown, and she and Grabau separated. She lived in pooer circumstances in later years, publishing little, and died on May 15, 1949.

Werner Sollors is a professor of Afro-American Studies and English at Harvard University. His most recent book is Neither Black Nor White Yet Both: Thematic Explorations of Interracial Literature.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

The Promised Land (Barnes & Noble Digital Library) 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have heard of this book before my friends who have read it says it is really good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago