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

by Joyce Antler
     
 

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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. Whether drawn as self-sacrificing or manipulative, in countless films, novels, radio and television programs, stand-up comedy, and psychological and historical studies, she appears as a

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. Whether drawn as self-sacrificing or manipulative, in countless films, novels, radio and television programs, stand-up comedy, and psychological and historical studies, she appears as a colossal figure, intensely involved in the lives of her children.
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," "Seinfeld," and "Will and Grace." But she also uncovers a new counter-narrative, leading feminist scholars and stand-up comediennes to see the Jewish Mother in positive terms. Continually revised and reinvented, the Jewish Mother becomes in Antler's expert hands a unique lens with which to examine vital concerns of American Jews and the culture at large.
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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An excellent new American academic study...Antler leads us well beyond Jewishness, and offers some truths about parenting in general."—Financial Times

"What an ideal topic for a specialist in American Jewish history and culture, which Joyce Antler is. The Brandeis University professor analyzes her subject academically while exploring its ironic conflicts and enjoying the humor clinging to it...Read it and laugh."—Dallas Morning News

"Perceptive and often amusing."—Hadassah Magazine

"The highly readable quality of the writing will delight both the scholar and the average reader including those who are Jewish mothers, daughters, fathers, and sons."—Jewish Book World

"Original and often funny, full of rich anecdotes drawn from popular culture, sociological and historical studies and life experience... Antler achieves what many academics aspire to: a voice that is both scholarly and lively as she examines the origins of negative stereotypes associated with the Jewish mother."—The Jewish Week

"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

"Well-researched and very readable...You Never Call! You Never Write! is a valuable addition."—The Journal of American History

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

"From Yiddishe mama to Mrs. Portnoy, Antler covers all the bases and goes far beyond stereotypes, providing a sweeping history of the Jewish mother that is filled with humor, insight and most importantly, sensitivity to the paramount role of mothers in all of our lives."—Moshe Waldoks, co-editor of The Big Book of Jewish Humor

"Compulsively readable and genuinely original, this erudite yet deeply emotional work crosses boundaries and undermines truisms."—Rebecca Goldstein, author of Betraying Spinoza

"Now I know what to give my mother for her 94th birthday. This book shows how the Jewish gift for comedy is a double-edged sword: the brilliantly funny stereotypes it has given us- the Jewish mother, above all- live on despite the fact that their grain of truth is such a small part of what is seen with a clear and knowing eye like Joyce Antler's. Her writing is incisive and from the heart."—Judith Shapiro, President and Professor of Anthropology, Barnard College

"An important, captivating and funny read. Joyce Antler has captured the complexity of the public image of Jewish mothers, and introduced new ways to perceive this fabled character. Her story talks to mothers, daughters, and families everywhere, and addresses those who would dismiss The Jewish Mother merely as a cartoon character." — Tovah Feldshuh, actress

"Joyce Antler's engrossing portrayal of the cultural phenomenon of the Jewish mother is entertaining, humorous, and stimulating." —Joan Nathan, author of Jewish Cooking in America

"Oy vey! Why does the Jewish mother get such a bad rap? Antler's compellingly readable and always instructive history surveys sources from TV to treatises with equal keenness, revealing the shifting construction of this seemingly inescapable image. No treatment of the topic is more definitive."—Nancy F. Cott, author of Public Vows: History of Marriage and the Nation

"Alternately humorous and poignant, Joyce Antler's superb new book reveals both the changing and multifaceted image of the Jewish mother in American public culture and the gap between crude cultural stereotyping and the complex social realities of Jewish women's historical experiences. This is a fascinating and evocative book."— Susan A. Glenn, author of Daughters of the Shtetl

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195147872
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
04/02/2007
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
9.20(w) x 6.20(h) x 1.30(d)

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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 nine 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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