‘Stories of Exile’ reading group to resume this fall


PROVIDENCE – Following stimulating book discussions in May and June, the Rochambeau Library will continue “Stories of Exile,” sponsored by the Yiddish Book Center, in October and November.

“Stories of Exile” is a reading and discussion program to engage teens and adults in thinking about experiences of displacement, migration and diaspora. Over the course of the spring and fall book discussions, librarians organize participants into reading groups to discuss three books of Yiddish literature in translation, and one book related to the experience of a community served by their library.

Rochambeau Library is one of the nine Community Libraries of Providence, and one of 30 libraries across the country selected to participate in the discussion series. The Yiddish Book Center’s “Stories of Exile” Reading Groups for Public Libraries is made possible by a gift from Sharon Karmazin.

Participants who attended the spring book discussions read “The Glatstein Chronicles,” by Jacob Glatstein, a heavily autobiographical novel about a Polish Jewish immigrant returning to his homeland from America for the first time in 20 years to see his dying mother.

One of the foremost Yiddish poets of his day, Glatstein used his journey as the basis for two highly autobiographical novellas (translated as “The Glatstein Chronicles”) in which he intertwines childhood memories with observations of growing antisemitism in Europe from 1905 to 1934. This book provided an opportunity for those in the group who came from immigrant families to talk about their own family’s history.

In October, the program will explore “In the Land of the Postscript,” by Chava Rosenfarb, seven stories about survivors of the Holocaust, as well as discussing the movie “Enemies: A Love Story,” based on the book by I.B. Singer about a Holocaust survivor living in New York City who struggles with depression.

In November, the group will discuss “On the Landing,” by Yenta Mash, which documents the lost world of Jewish Bessarabia, the texture of daily life behind the Iron Curtain in Soviet Moldova, and the challenges of assimilation in Israel.

The final book in the series is “The Namesake,” by Jhumpa Lahiri, which portrays a family of first- and second-generation Americans from India.

All three books, as well as the movie, address issues of identity, assimilation, and remembering and forgetting the past.

All discussions will be led by Lee Teverow and Jon Landry, and are held in-person at the library, at 708 Hope St.,  from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on the following dates:

Oct. 3: “In the Land of the Postscript”

Oct. 17: Discussion of the film “Enemies: A Love Story” (watch at home)

Nov. 7: “On the Landing”

Nov. 21: “The Namesake”

For more information and to register for the free program, email rocadults@clpvd.org.

Copies of  “On the Landing” and “In the Land of the Postscript”  are available at the Reference Desk at the Rochambeau Library. These titles, as well as “The Namesake,” are also available as eBooks on Hoopla, which is free through the library.

“Enemies: A Love Story,” can be requested on DVD from the library or streamed for free through the library’s website, on Kanopy.

Patrons of other R.I. public libraries may also inquire at their own libraries about the availability of the books and movie.

The Yiddish Book Center, in Amherst, Massachusetts, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to recovering, celebrating, and regenerating Yiddish and modern Jewish literature and culture.

LEE TEVEROW, a lifelong Rhode Islander, is the adult services librarian at the Rochambeau Library, in Providence.