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You Never Call! You Never Write!: A History of the Jewish Mother

Overview


In You Never Call, You Never Write, Joyce Antler provides an illuminating and often amusing history of one of the best-known figures in popular culture--the Jewish Mother.
Antler traces the odyssey of this compelling personality through decades of American culture. She reminds us of a time when Jewish mothers were admired for their tenacity and nurturance, as in the early twentieth-century image of the "Yiddishe Mama," a sentimental figure popularized by entertainers such as ...
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You Never Call! You Never Write!: A History of the Jewish Mother

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Overview


In You Never Call, You Never Write, Joyce Antler provides an illuminating and often amusing history of one of the best-known figures in popular culture--the Jewish Mother.
Antler traces the odyssey of this compelling personality through decades of American culture. She reminds us of a time when Jewish mothers were admired for their tenacity and nurturance, as in the early twentieth-century image of the "Yiddishe Mama," a sentimental figure popularized by entertainers such as George Jessel, Al Jolson, and Sophie Tucker, and especially by Gertrude Berg, whose amazingly successful "Molly Goldberg" ruled American radio and television for over 25 years. Antler explains the transformation of this Jewish Mother into a "brassy-voiced, smothering, and shrewish" scourge (in Irving Howe's words), detailing many variations on this negative theme, from Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint and Woody Allen's Oedipus Wrecks to television shows such as "The Nanny" and Larry David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm." But she also uncovers a new counter-narrative, leading feminist scholars and stand-up comediennes to see the Jewish Mother in positive terms.
A joy to read, You Never Call, You Never Write will delight anyone who has ever known or been nurtured by a "Jewish Mother," and it will be a special source of insight for modern parents. As Antler suggests, in many ways, "we are all Jewish Mothers" today.

"After reading this, you'll call, you'll write, and you'll say thank you!"
--Judy Gold, comedian

"More than a history of Jewish motherhood, this book offers a fresh perspective on Jewish history, women's history, and the history of popular culture that is both informative and entertaining.... Readers will finish the book with a fuller and more nuanced understanding of the history of the Jewish mother--and mothers in general."
--Library Journal

"As educational as it is riotous...go buy this book and call your mom."
--The Jewish Magazine

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195147872
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/2/2007
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 6.20 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Joyce Antler is the Samuel Lane Professor of American Jewish History and Culture at Brandeis University. She is the author or editor of ten books, including The Journey Home: How Jewish Women Shaped Modern America and Talking Back: Images of Jewish Women in Popular Culture. She lives in Brookline, Massachusetts, with her husband, and is the mother of two daughters.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     ix
Introduction     1
The Nagging Stereotype
"My Yiddishe Mama": The Multiple Faces of the Immigrant Jewish Mother     15
Molly Goldberg: "The Prototype of the Jewish Mother" in the Twentieth Century     47
Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict: Social Science Uncovers the Jewish "Family Plot"     73
From Marjorie Morningstar to Jennie Grossinger: The Suburbs, the Catskills, and the Jewish Mother Joke     101
"American Mother of the Year" Versus Monster Mothers: Will the Real Sophie Portnoy Please Stand Up?     123
The New Face of the Jewish Mother
The Mother and the Movement: Feminism Constructs the Jewish Mother     149
Roseanne and The Nanny: The Jewish Mother as Postmodern Spectacle     169
From Second-Generation Memoirs to Women's History: Reclaiming the Missing Mother     193
"They Raised Beautiful Families": Jewish Mothers Narrate Their Lives     215
We Are All Jewish Mothers: Mothering in the New Millennium     233
Epilogue     257
Notes     259
Archival Sources     301
Index     303
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2008

    A reviewer

    Personally, I loved 'Yiddishe Mamas: The Truth About the Jewish Mother,' and '25 Questions for a Jewish Mother.' Yiddishe Mamas is far more entertaining as well as informative, with a lot of heart. Judy Gold's book is different, based upon her show, but extremely funny. If you have to choose, I'd select these, especially as gifts.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2007

    a must-read!

    This is the definitive work on the history of the Jewish mother. Antler¿s incisive analysis of a wide range of sources from tv and radio to anthropology and psychology to comedy and literature is both informative and fun. As a historian and a Jewish daughter and mother, I found this book compelling.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2007

    Highly recommended

    This book offers a truly dynamic analysis of the Jewish mother across time. I found the chapters on the Jewish mother as represented by the engines of popular culture to be particularly informative, and, as a Jewish mother myself, the book helped me to contextualize and interpret some of my own 'helicopter' tendencies.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2007

    Perfect book for mom

    What an insightful and heartwarming book. If I didn't already buy my mom a copy, I'd give it to her for Mother's Day. There is a lot of stuff out there on the Jewish Mother - mostly joke books with a lot of sarcasm - but this one is pretty unique. It truly is a thoughtful look at the Jewish Mother and how, for one reason or another, she got a bad reputation because of her love for her family, her strength and courage, etc. But what's really nice are all the anecdotes, jokes, stories and interviews that show a real appreciation for the Jewish Mother and all she embodies. I'm so happy I stumbled across the book it's a no-brainer gift for so many occasions!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2007

    A Little Disappointing

    The book deals primarily with Jewish mothers and media. The material seems a rehash of the author's previous works. If you want a truly superb book on the topic, I'd choose 'Yiddishe Mamas: The Truth About the Jewish Mother.' It's a far more exhaustive and fascinating treatment of the topic by Marnie Winston-Macauley.

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