Categories: Historical, Jewish, LGBT
Set in Russia and New York during the early twentieth century, Beyond the Pale follows the lives of two women born in a Russian-Jewish settlement who immigrate to New York’s Lower East Side. Gutke Gurvich is a midwife who travels to America with her partner, a woman passing as a man. Their story crosses with that of Chava Meyer, a girl who was attended by Gutke at her birth and was later orphaned during the Kishinev pogrom of 1903. Chava immigrates with the family of her cousin Rose, and the two girls begin working at fourteen as they live through the oppression and tragedies of their time. They grow to become lovers, which leads them to search for a community they can truly call their own.
Touching on the hallmarks of the Progressive Era—the Women’s Trade Union League, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911, anarchist and socialist movements, women’s suffrage, anti-Semitism—Dykewomon’s Beyond the Pale is a richly detailed and moving story, offering a glimpse into a world that is often overlooked.
My Very Quick Thoughts:
I feel honored to have read Beyond the Pale
. It was rich, engrossing, painful, powerful, and gorgeous.
“Like so many of the bits of conversation I recall, the meanings hidden in childhood only become clear now that I write them down. Most were just small lessons, people trying to prove their virtue to each other, but because I wasn’t supposed to be listening, I made things out to be more important than they were. Maybe that’s why our childhoods seem so big, so resonant, while our adult years slip by like fish in the river Byk.”
This book is an out-and-out tour de force. There’s no way that I can recommend it highly enough.
Read an excerpt from Beyond the Pale here.