In Call It Sleep, David Schearl, the son of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, straddles between his Yiddish background and the American culture. The dialogues in the novel—Yiddish written in prose and English in dialect—highlight the clash and synthesis of the two worlds. It is the essential immigrant experience, to straddle between two cultures, to struggle with identity, and ultimately to reconcile and integrate the two into a new creation.
Manhattan’s Lower East Side has been a microcosm of the “melting pot” where Jews, Irish, Italians, Greeks, Chinese, Puerto Ricans and Russians mingle and yet retain their unique identities. Often, second and third generations move to more affluent neighborhoods, but this place remains “ground zero” for the dynamics of cultural synthesis. Henry Roth in Call It Sleep gives a glimpse of that cultural dynamics for the Jewish community. An essential novel for the immigrant experience.
Posted by Leonard Seet
Labels: Call It Sleep, Eastern Europeans, Henry Roth, immigrants, Jewish immigrants, Jewish literature, New York City
Leonard Seet is the author of the novels Magnolias in Paradise and Meditation On Space-Time. His short fiction have appeared in the Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Banana Writers and Pilcrow & Dagger. Through his writings, he probes the dynamics of existence, including human consciousness, good and evil, and rationality and spirituality. He received the B.S. in Physics and B.S. and M.S. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and an MBA from Georgetown University.