I Have a Story to Tell You
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$29.95 Paper, 324 pp.
I Have a Story to Tell You is about Eastern European Jewish immigrants living in Montreal, Toronto, and Winnipeg in the early twentieth century. The stories encompass their travels and travails on leaving home and their struggles in the sweatshops and factories of the garment industry in Canada. Basing her work on extensive interviews, Seemah Berson recreates these immigrants’ stories about their lives in the Old Country and the hardship of finding work in Canada, and she tells how many of these newcomers ended up in the needle trades. Revealing a fervent sense of socialist ideology acquired in the crucible of the Russian Revolution, the stories tell of the influence of Jewish culture and traditions, of personaland organizedfights against exploitation, and of struggles to establish unions for better working conditions.
This book is a wonderful resource for teachers of Canadian, Jewish, and social history, as well as auto/biography and cultural studies. The simplicity of the language, transcribed from oral reports, makes this work accessible to anyone who enjoys a good story.Seemah C. Berson was born and raised in Calcutta, India. After travelling extensively, she arrived in Vancouver, B.C., in 1954. She received her B.A. (1975) and M.A. (1980) from the University of British Columbia. She is co-editor with Henry M. Rosenthal of The Canadian Jewish Outlook Anthology (1988), and was a contributor to and long-time member of Outlook magazine’s collective. She is a published children’s author and a sometime artist in soapstone, stick-making, and painting.
“Seemah C. Berson’s I Have a Story to Tell You consists of a series of detailed interviews with Jews who fled to Canada from Eastern Europe during the first three decades of the twentieth century. Berson interviewed these immigrants in the mid-1970s, and in this collection, she has kept herself in the background, enabling the interviewees’ own stories to emerge virtually on their own. Their accounts are engaging, indeed fascinating, as well as informative.... Despite some limitations, this collection is very rich.”
— Ruth A. Frager, McMaster University, Canadian Jewish Studies