Unterzakhn

Leela Corman

Book - 2012

"A mesmerizing, heartbreaking graphic novel of immigrant life on New York's Lower East Side at the turn of the twentieth century, as seen through the eyes of twin sisters whose lives take radically and tragically different paths. For six-year-old Esther and Fanya, the teeming streets of New York's Lower East Side circa 1910 are both a fascinating playground and a place where life's lessons are learned quickly and often cruelly. In drawings that capture both the tumult and the... telling details of that street life, Unterzakhn (Yiddish for 'Underthings') tells the story of these sisters: as wide-eyed little girls absorbing the sights and sounds of a neighborhood of struggling immigrants; as teenagers taking their own tentative steps into the wider world (Esther working for a woman who runs both a burlesque theater and a whorehouse, Fanya for an obstetrician who also performs illegal abortions); and, finally, as adults battling for their own piece of the 'golden land,' where the difference between just barely surviving and triumphantly succeeding involves, for each of them, painful decisions that will have unavoidably tragic repercussions" -- from publisher's web site.

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GRAPHIC NOVEL/Corman
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Location Call Number   Status
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Subjects
Genres
Graphic novels
Published
New York : Schocken Books c2012.
Edition
1st ed
Language
English
Physical Description
203 p. : chiefly ill. ; 24 cm
ISBN
9780805242591
0805242597
Main Author
Leela Corman (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

This historically informed and aesthetically compelling story follows twins Esther and Fanya as they grow from little girls on New York's Hester Street to womanhood. We first meet Fanya in 1909 as she races in confusion for the "lady doctor" to help a woman who has fallen bleeding in a shop. In years to come, Fanya becomes first the "doctor's" apprentice and ultimately her protégée as an abortionist and reproductive-rights activist. Esther, meanwhile, works for a woman who runs a local bordello. Across the years, the sisters share night-time conversations that show how each has acquired different knowledge-sets as well as value systems. Heavily inked cartoons beautifully depict period details and the Hester Street gossips as times evolve and show how the two sisters' similarities change into stark differences in appearance as they age. The text, salted with Yiddish, and the eloquently detailed images meld together to make this a good choice for readers who enjoyed Eleanor Widmer's Up from Orchard Street (2005) or Hubert and Kerascoet's Miss Don't Touch Me (2009). Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Set in New York City's Lower East Side in the early 20th century, this book follows the lives of two sisters, Fanya and Esther. The children of Russian Jewish immigrants, the girls take wildly divergent paths. Fanya goes to work for Bronia, a female doctor who quietly tries to dispense family planning material to her patients struggling to support the children they already have; Esther becomes a showgirl, after a stop in a brothel. Sex, then, is at the heart of both of their worlds, and Corman gracefully traces both young women's efforts to maintain control of their bodies in an unpredictable and at times violent world. Corman steeps her striking black and white artwork with period details, particularly in the clothes and the bustling street scenes. In a flashback scene set in Russia, especially, she echoes the swirling evocative style of Russian folk art. The sisters and their father are compelling, although some characters remain enigmas; a plot twist about the mother is hard to reconcile with the way the character is first introduced. Overall, though, the story of Fanya and Esther's struggles is beautifully drawn and hard to forget. (Apr.) [Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Growing up on the teeming streets of New York's Lower East Side in the early 20th century, Jewish immigrant twins Esther and Fanya experience radically different lives as a burlesque dancer in a brothel and a nurse for an obstetrician who performs illegal abortions. 25,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Growing up in New York's Lower East Side in the early twentieth century, Jewish immigrant twins Esther and Fanya experience radically different lives as a burlesque dancer in a brothel and a nurse for an obstetrician who performs illegal abortions.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

"A mesmerizing, heartbreaking graphic novel of immigrant life on New York's Lower East Side at the turn of the twentieth century, as seen through the eyes of twin sisters whose lives take radically and tragically different paths. For six-year-old Esther and Fanya, the teeming streets of New York's Lower East Side circa 1910 are both a fascinating playground and a place where life's lessons are learned quickly and often cruelly. In drawings that capture both the tumult and the telling details of that street life, Unterzakhn (Yiddish for 'Underthings') tells the story of these sisters: as wide-eyed little girls absorbing the sights and sounds of a neighborhood of struggling immigrants; as teenagers taking their own tentative steps into the wider world (Esther working for a woman who runs both a burlesque theater and a whorehouse, Fanya for an obstetrician who also performs illegal abortions); and, finally, as adults battling for their own piece of the 'golden land,' where the difference between just barelysurviving and triumphantly succeeding involves, for each of them, painful decisions that will have unavoidably tragic repercussions" -- from publisher's web site.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

A mesmerizing, heartbreaking graphic novel of immigrant life on New York’s Lower East Side at the turn of the twentieth century, as seen through the eyes of twin sisters whose lives take radically and tragically different paths. For six-year-old Esther and Fanya, the teeming streets of New York’s Lower East Side circa 1910 are both a fascinating playground and a place where life’s lessons are learned quickly and often cruelly. In drawings that capture both the tumult and the telling details of that street life, Unterzakhn (Yiddish for “Underthings”) tells the story of these sisters: as wide-eyed little girls absorbing the sights and sounds of a neighborhood of struggling immigrants; as teenagers taking their own tentative steps into the wider world (Esther working for a woman who runs both a burlesque theater and a whorehouse, Fanya for an obstetrician who also performs illegal abortions); and, finally, as adults battling for their own piece of the “golden land,” where the difference between just barely surviving and triumphantly succeeding involves, for each of them, painful decisions that will have unavoidably tragic repercussions.