Beyond the Pale Paperback – Aug 7 2003
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Elana Dykewomon's Lambda Award-winning novel Beyond the Pale announces itself to the world with an infant's scream--"a new voice, a tiny shofar announcing its own first year." The midwife attending this birth is Gutke Gurvich, a half-Jew with different colored eyes and a gift for seeing into the spirit world. Beyond the Pale is Gutke's story, detailing her odyssey from a Russian shtetl to a comfortable Manhattan brownstone. But, as Dykewomon puts it, "Whenever you tell the story of one woman, inside is another," and this rich, multilayered novel is also the story of Chava Meyer, the baby girl Gutke delivered that day, as well as the story of the important women in both of their lives: mothers, sisters, neighbors, lovers, friends. After seeing her mother raped and killed during a particularly vicious progrom in her native village of Kishinev, Chava immigrates to America. There, on Manhattan's Lower East Side, both she and Gutke find themselves involved in the nascent labor union and suffrage movements. Dykewomon has clearly done her research here, and Beyond the Pale presents a beautifully detailed account of life among turn-of-the-century immigrant Jews, from classes at the Henry Street Settlement House to the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Through the lens of several lesbians' lives, Dykewomon draws a portrait of an entire Diasporan community living through the terror and uncertainties of both Russian progroms and life in the New World. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
The pale was a marker outside the Russian towns where Jews were forced to live, but neither separation nor integration protected them from pogroms, which continued into the 20th century. Into this world, midwife Gutke delivers baby Chava in 1889. They meet again after emigrating to New York City, when Chava is a young adult. Dykewomon, author of the classic Riverfinger Women (1974), has written a page-turner that brings to life turn-of-the-century New York's Lower East Side, with its teeming crowds, its sweatshops, the Henry Street Settlement House, and events like the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire. Chava becomes active in the Women's League and is confronted with its racism and anti-Semitism. Gutke, married to a woman who passes as a man, shows Chava (and today's readers as well) one way that women made their lives with other women in the pre-Stonewall era. Infighting and lack of vision among progressive groups, immigrants torn between assimilation and preserving the traditions that define them?these issues are as pressing today as they were a century ago, and they are well portrayed in this historical fiction. Recommended for all collections.?Ina Rimpau, Newark P.L., N.J.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
I disagree with the earlier reviewers who characterize the book as either flat or overwritten; I can only imagine that as the reaction if you were looking for a hot but not-too-taxing lesbian romance. This is a different kind of book. There is love between women in this book--quirky, believable, and heartbreaking--but it is not a book that makes the drama of what happens in a couple the entire world. This is love immersed *in* the world. I found the book richly and elegantly written, with excellent depth and insight into the main characters. Elana Dyke! womon is also a fine poet as well as a novelist, and this comes through not only in the verse fragments within the book but also the way it circles around a number of recurrent, evocative images. Anyway, I cannot recommend enough that you take the time to immerse yourself in this finely-crafted, large-spirited, woman-centered novel.
The book begins in the first person, telling part of the story of Gutke a midwife, and lesbian. We get a flashback of when Gutke was a young girl, and how she and mother survived following the death of the husband---who was not the father of Gutke, as her mother was raped.
Gutke has one black eye and one gold-flecked eye, which makes her unusual. She has a bit of gypsy blood in her, and sometimes seems to be able to see the future of certain babies she delivers.
As a child, Gutke, and her mother surive thru the kindness of a woman who owns and runs a Jewish bathhouse in a small Russian town.
There Gutke discovers the lesbianism of two of the patrons of the bathhouse. Later she goes and lives with one of the women, only as a friend, and thru her, meets Dovida.
Dovida is a lesbian woman who has disguised herself as a man.
She and Gutke continue this, coming to America eventually where they live as husband and wife.
However, Dovida and Gutke's relationship is never examined in much detail. Nor are we ever privy to Dovida's youth and her experiences.
Or how Dovida manages to get away with her disguise, and how it went for her entering the country of America disguised as a male. The fact this is not examined was disappointing to me as a lesbian reader.
Featured more prominently in the book is Chava Meyer, and her cousin Rose. Chava's story begins when she is quite young, and it is some time before any lesbian romance or exploration of the lesbian side of her nature is explored or discussed at all.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I finished Beyond the Pale more than 4 weeks ago, yet it is still resonating within me. The author's writing style is wonderfully rich. Read morePublished on Feb. 15 2004 by MB
Amazing story about amazing women. Also about the Jewish identity. The author mentions that she wanted to tell a story of Jewish persecution outside the Holocaust, to show that it... Read morePublished on Jan. 24 2004 by Elizabeth K. Roth
Opening in the early years of the twentieth century, Beyond The Pale by Elana Dykewomon is the engaging story of Gutke Gurvich and Chava Meyer -- two Russian Jewish women who go... Read morePublished on Jan. 17 2004 by Midwest Book Review
Beautifully told. Please refer to Jewett62's review, she really says it all. I just needed to add my 5-star rating!Published on Oct. 30 2001
Elana uses the themes of love, loss, family, tradition, and religion to weave a novel that tackles life's core issues and illuminates several historical time-periods. Read morePublished on March 9 2001 by Jennifer Wiley
Dykewomon's latest novel is intricate and well-researched. It was a treat for my mind and my heart. Prospective readers should know that Beyond the Pale is no ordinary cotton-candy... Read morePublished on Dec 2 1998
This is an important story which needs to be heard, which means it also deserves to be written well. Read morePublished on July 20 1998