Immigrant Memoirs: Women’s Lives from Eastern Europe to America





Aleksandra Kremer (Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures)
Freshman Seminar 64T       4 credits (fall term)     Enrollment:  Limited to 15

In this seminar we will read memoirs and personal essays (as well as a few poems and a play) written by women who had moved from eastern Europe to the United States (and in some cases to the UK and Canada, too). What did they think about their new countries? What happened to their first languages as they lived surrounded by the English language? What did their alienation and assimilation look like? How did their attitude to English evolve? We will read about identity, memory, and loss, about abandoning and rediscovering one’s ancestry, about children and adults, about working-class immigrants, successful writers, and part-time college teachers, and their varying reasons for emigration, which included wars, discrimination, poverty, and love. The authors we will discuss come from Poland, Ukraine, and Russia, from former Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, and include several Jewish and Yiddish-speaking writers. The earliest migrations described in these memoirs take place around World War II and the Holocaust, the most recent texts refer to the war in Ukraine. What image of eastern Europe emerges from these texts? How do these stories inform our views of ethnicity and immigration today? What do they tell us about our own identities? All students interested in these questions are welcome to join us, there are no prerequisites. 

Note: All readings will be in English.

See also: Fall 2022