Bread Givers, by Anzia Yezierska, tells the story of Sara Smolinsky and her family. She grows up on the Lower East Side of New York, after immigrating from Poland. The story follows that her father, does not lift a finger around the house, and instead spends his days studying the Torah, following the teachings. The house’s income is supported by Sara’s sisters and mother who are the main breadwinners of the family and help to put food on the table. Over the story, we see that each of the sisters meets and falls in love with a man. Yet, each of the men that the sisters bring home, the father does not approve of the men. One of the sisters, named Bessie falls in love with a man by the name of Berel Bernstein. Father did not want Bessie to marry this man because Bessie was needed in the family. Eventually, Bessie does get married. However, she marries a man she does not like, and who her father approves of, especially a man who already has children. The next sister is Mashah who like Bessie, also falls in love with a man, named Jacob who was a piano player. Not surprisingly, the father did not like Jacob, because he would play on Sabbath. Instead, she is married off to a diamond dealer named Moe Mirsky. Fania would be the next sister who is married. She like Bessie and Mashah, fell in love with a man but was married off to a man who had money, but ultimately, became a gambler. I did find the story fascinating, yet I got angry with the father, as he does not help around the houses and expects his wife and children to do all the work, while he just studies.
After awhile in the story, we see that the age of seventeen, Sara, has had enough of her father rules, and decides to leave the house, and goes and lives with her two sisters and their husbands. From what she witnessed of how her sisters lived, she decided to leave, and wanted to have a better life for herself. After leaving the house, she found a cheep one bedroom, and a job, all while studying a night to be a teacher. Along the way, she faces struggles and obstacles from people that she can not do it, and that women should not be living on her own and should have a husbands. While studying, she meets a man, whom she almost marries Max Goldstein. However, when she find out that he does support what she is doing, she rejects him, and continues on her path of studying. Eventually, she goes to college, and graduates. As I was reading more and more of this section, and supporting her decision, of what she wanted to do with her life, it got me thinking. She is craving her own path, even though her father wants her to stay on his path and marry a men.
After obtaining her degree, she goes out and buys expensive clothing, begins teaching and embraces the life of not dealing with poverty. Unfortunately, she discovers her mother is dying. She and her sisters do everything they can, even bringing in nurses. However, her mother passes away. Afterwards, Sara discovers that her father married a women, who only wanted the money, and being treated with luxuries and taken care of by the father. Once Sara starts settling in school and teaching she falls for Hugo Seelig the principal of the school. Sara’s father likes Hugo, and eventually moves in with Sara, after her father invites him. Overall, I find the book very fascinating to learn about a Jewish immigrant living in New York, studying to be teaching, while dealing with poverty and obstacles. But, what really interested me, was the fact that she did not give up, no matter what. Especially, how her father was pushing her towards marrying a man, and how she rejected that notion and followed her own path.