"Who knew that a century before Lena Dunham’s Girls, a Yiddish writer named Miriam Karpilove was already telling the world, in mordant, sometimes hilarious prose, what it was like to be a young Jewish woman in New York City?"—Josh Lambert, academic director of the Yiddish Book Center
"Teach this book, share it with your reading group, tell your friends about it! Kirzane has given new life to this heretofore little known classic!"—Laura Levitt, Temple University
"Both hilarious and sobering, Karpilove’s Diary breaks the mold of the serialized romance novel to bring us something unique: a sophisticated, insightful, and witty heroine who holds her own against bloviating suitors and prying landladies, never giving up her dreams of equality, freedom, and fulfillment in love."—Ellen Cassedy, author of We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust
"Absolutely an original and needed book."—Rachel Rubinstein, Hampshire College
"Love, sexuality, and politics all merge in this brilliantly written novel of early twentieth-century immigrant life told from the perspective of a woman."—Allison Schachter, Vanderbilt University
"This opportunity to hear a voice from one hundred years ago telling of her predicament . . . makes for fascinating reading."—Janice Weizman, Reading Jewish Fiction
"A valuable edition to Yiddish Literature in Translation, set in New York City in the second decade of the 20th century."—The Reading Life
First published serially in the Yiddish daily newspaper di Varhayt in 1916–18, Diary of a Lonely Girl, or The Battle against Free Love is a novel of intimate feelings and scandalous behaviors, shot through with a dark humor. From the perch of a diarist writing in first person about her own love life, Miriam Karpilove’s novel offers a snarky, melodramatic criticism of radical leftist immigrant youth culture in early twentieth-century New York City. Squeezed between men who use their freethinking ideals to pressure her to be sexually available and nosy landladies who require her to maintain her respectability, the narrator expresses frustration at her vulnerable circumstances with wry irreverence. The novel boldly explores issues of consent, body autonomy, women’s empowerment and disempowerment around sexuality, courtship, and politics.
Karpilove immigrated to the United States from a small town near Minsk in 1905 and went on to become one of the most prolific and widely published women writers of prose in Yiddish. Kirzane’s skillful translation gives English readers long-overdue access to Karpilove’s original and provocative voice.
Miriam Karpilove (1888–1956) published dramas, criticism, sketches, short stories, and novellas in a variety of prominent Yiddish periodicals during her fifty-year career. She was a member of the Forverts staff, publishing seven novels and numerous works of short fiction in that paper between 1929 and 1937.
Jessica Kirzane is a lecturer in Yiddish at the University of Chicago and the editor in chief of In Geveb: A Journal of Yiddish Studies. Kirzane was a 2017 Translation Fellow and a 2018 Pedagogy Fellow at the Yiddish Book Center.
6 x 9, 344 pages, 2 black and white illustrations