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Literati is proud to welcome authors and faculty members at the University of Michigan Shachar Pinsker and Sara Blair who will be sharing and discussing their new books A Rich Brew: How Cafes Created Modern Jewish Culture and How the Other Half Looks: The Lower East Side and the Afterlives of Images.
About A Rich Brew:
A fascinating glimpse into the world of the coffeehouse and its role in shaping modern Jewish culture. Unlike the synagogue, the house of study, the community center, or the Jewish deli, the café is rarely considered a Jewish space. Yet, coffeehouses profoundly influenced the creation of modern Jewish culture from the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries. With roots stemming from the Ottoman Empire, the coffeehouse and its drinks gained increasing popularity in Europe. The "otherness," and the mix of the national and transnational characteristics of the coffeehouse perhaps explains why many of these cafés were owned by Jews, why Jews became their most devoted habitués, and how cafés acquired associations with Jewishness. Examining the convergence of cafés, their urban milieu, and Jewish creativity, Shachar M. Pinsker argues that cafés anchored a silk road of modern Jewish culture. He uncovers a network of interconnected cafés that were central to the modern Jewish experience in a time of migration and urbanization, from Odessa, Warsaw, Vienna, and Berlin to New York City and Tel Aviv. A Rich Brew explores the Jewish culture created in these social spaces, drawing on a vivid collection of newspaper articles, memoirs, archival documents, photographs, caricatures, and artwork, as well as stories, novels, and poems in many languages set in cafés. Pinsker shows how Jewish modernity was born in the café, nourished, and sent out into the world by way of print, politics, literature, art, and theater. What was experienced and created in the space of the coffeehouse touched thousands who read, saw, and imbibed a modern culture that redefined what it meant to be a Jew in the world.
About How the Other Half Looks:
How New York's Lower East Side inspired new ways of seeing America
New York City's Lower East Side, long viewed as the space of what Jacob Riis notoriously called the "other half," was also a crucible for experimentation in photography, film, literature, and visual technologies. This book takes an unprecedented look at the practices of observation that emerged from this critical site of encounter, showing how they have informed literary and everyday narratives of America, its citizens, and its possible futures.
Taking readers from the mid-nineteenth century to the present, Sara Blair traces the career of the Lower East Side as a place where image-makers, writers, and social reformers tested new techniques for apprehending America--and their subjects looked back, confronting the means used to represent them. This dynamic shaped the birth of American photojournalism, the writings of Stephen Crane and Abraham Cahan, and the forms of early cinema. During the 1930s, the emptying ghetto opened contested views of the modern city, animating the work of such writers and photographers as Henry Roth, Walker Evans, and Ben Shahn. After World War II, the Lower East Side became a key resource for imagining poetic revolution, as in the work of Allen Ginsberg and LeRoi Jones, and exploring dystopian futures, from Cold War atomic strikes to the death of print culture and the threat of climate change.
How the Other Half Looks reveals how the Lower East Side has inspired new ways of looking--and looking back--that have shaped literary and popular expression as well as American modernity.
Shachar M. Pinsker is Associate Professor of Hebrew Literature and Culture at the University of Michigan. He is the author of Literary Passports: The Making of Modernist Hebrew Fiction in Europe.
Sara Blair is the Patricia S. Yaeger Collegiate Professor of English and a faculty associate in the Department of American Culture and the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan. Her books includeHarlem Crossroads: Black Writers and the Photograph in the Twentieth Century (Princeton) and Trauma and Documentary Photography of the FSA.