"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? In Jessica Kirzane’s expert translation, Karpilove’s novel is revealed as a brilliant critique of the political cant of its time, with ‘free love’ meaning, more often than not, protection for men and increased vulnerability for women. A lost treasure of modern Yiddish literature, Diary of a Lonely Girl will be a revelation to anyone who cares about immigrants’ experiences, women’s rights, and the roles of Jews in American radicalism."—Josh Lambert, Academic Director of the Yiddish Book Center
"Jessica Kirzane's translation of Karpilove’s extraordinary novel, Diary of a Lonely Girl, opens up anew the life of a young Jewish woman in the early years of the last century. Here the complexities of desire, the challenges of free love and its simultaneous backlash could not be more relevant! 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, professor of religion, Jewish studies and gender, 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
"This is absolutely an original and needed book. So little Yiddish literature by women has been translated, especially literature by Yiddish women writers in the U.S. Many readers, scholars, students and teachers who cannot access the text in the original Yiddish will be delighted to have this translation with its thorough bio-critical introduction. The novel challenges many stereotypes and expectations about immigrant writing and thus offers a fresh and provocative take on the lives and preoccupations of early twentieth century immigrant Jews."—Rachel Rubinstein, professor of American Literature and Jewish studies, 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, associate professor of English and Jewish studies, Vanderbilt University
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.
6 x 9, 232 pages, 2 black and white illustrations