Throwbacklist Thursday: Boogie Woogie Kugel Boy

Today marks National Noodle Day, an observance that simultaneously celebrates a food most beloved of preschoolers and college students while making you wonder if this national day trend has gone too far. At UIP we take no stance on the question—it’s bad for business—but we do encourage all of you to investigate a clutch of Throwback books that encourage you to use your noodle. And when it comes to noodles, no one uses that bend-me shape-me pasta item like Jewish Americans. The Chosen People have turned out kugels of varying quality since the early days of the Republic. With Rosh Hashanah just past us and the blast of the shofar fading into the ether, we present a

weiner coalfieldCoalfield Jews: An Appalachian History, by Deborah R. Weiner
Coalfield Jews explores the intersection of two simultaneous historic events: central Appalachia’s transformative coal boom (1880s-1920), and the mass migration of eastern European Jews to America. Traveling to southern West Virginia, eastern Kentucky, and southwestern Virginia to investigate the coal boom’s opportunities, some Jewish immigrants found success as retailers and established numerous small but flourishing Jewish communities.

Deborah R. Weiner’s Coalfield Jews provides the first extended study of Jews in Appalachia, exploring where they settled, how they made their place within a surprisingly receptive dominant culture, how they competed with coal company stores, interacted with their non-Jewish neighbors, and maintained a strong Jewish identity deep in the heart of the Appalachian mountains. To tell this story, Weiner draws on a wide range of primary sources in social, cultural, religious, labor, economic, and regional history. She also includes moving personal statements, from oral histories as well as archival sources, to create a holistic portrayal of Jewish life that will challenge commonly held views of Appalachia as well as the American Jewish experience.

kugelmassJews, Sports, and the Rites of Citizenship, edited by Jack Kugelmass
To many, an association between Jews and sports seems almost oxymoronic—yet Jews have been prominent in boxing, basketball, and fencing, and some would argue that hurler Sandy Koufax is America’s greatest athlete ever. In Jews, Sports, and the Rites of Citizenship, Jack Kugelmass shows that sports–significant in constructing nations and in determining their degree of exclusivity—also figures prominently in the Jewish imaginary. This interdisciplinary collection brings together the perspectives of anthropologists and historians to provide both methodological and regional comparative frameworks for exploring the meaning of sports for a minority population.

rubinJewish Gangsters of Modern Literature, by Rachel Rubin
In this vividly written study, Rachel Rubin posits the Jewish literary gangster—a figure whose violence, transgressiveness, and ongoing internal conflict render him an important symbol of modernity—as a locus for exploring questions of artistic power in the interwar years. Focusing specifically on the Russian writer Isaac Babel and Americans Mike Gold, Samuel Ornitz, and Daniel Fuchs, but also taking in cartoons, movies, and modernist paintings, Rubin casts the Jewish gangster as a favorite figure used by left-wing Jewish writers to examine their own place in world history.

Rubin contends that these writers saw their artistic endeavors as akin to the work of their gangster doubles: outcasts and rebels “kneebreaking” their way into the literary canon while continuing to “do business” with the system. In the hands of Jewish literary communists—themselves engaged in transgressing cultural boundaries—the figure of the Jewish gangster provides an occasion to craft a virile Jewish masculinity, to consider the role of vernacular in literature, to interrogate the place of art within a political economy, and to explore the fate of Jewishness in the “new worlds” of the United States and the Soviet Union.