Page 52 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 39

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46
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
In long coats and f u r hats, those bearded faces
of our husbands, fathers, brothers unveiled
their eyes to study Torah. Joyously
each danced with each in praise o f the Holy One.
We women shaved our heads to tempt no man,
then, wigged, we sold at market square, cursed
the early morning, bargained, planned a meal
fo r Shabbos - twisted egg bread, a little soup,
a fresh white cloth, wine to make our man a king.
Those scholars stroked their beards and prayed to God.
We earthy wives gave them the ir heaven .10
T he larger-than-life matriarch is a charac ter who passes from the
scene with the death o f Baba at the end o f
Summer Is a Foreign
Land.
E.M. B roner’s subsequent writings focus on the women who
are Baba’s daughters and their peers.
MODERN TYPES
Among the generation o f Baba’s daughters many stand ou t as
real, well-developed characters whose lives, while poor in full­
blown tragedy, are rich in drama. One o f these women is the
central character in
Journal/Nocturnal
(1968). This woman, called
Wife, narrates the story in the first-person, using a split-page
technique: one column is entitled “Journa l: the eye’s m ind ,” and
the other, “Nocturnal: the m ind’s eye.” T he life portrayed in
these columns is tha t o f a woman who is powerless and unhappy .
She alternates between he r Husband, a professor who is deeply
involved in the anti-Vietnam War movement and the Guest who is
completing his dissertation and shares ne ither he r liberal political
outlook nor her Judaism .
T he impact o f Juda ism on the life o f Wife and the images she
projects is somewhat intangible. At times her Juda ism seems
central to her self-image. While on vacation, for example, she
writes to the Guest and then questions he r action: Perhaps he will
not respond. “Why does she court humiliation, or is she willing to
submit to indignities — almost passively? Where is she, feared by
the prophe t, a d augh te r of Jerusalem , with stretched forth neck
10 Broner,
ibid
. , pp. 19-20.