Mendel's Children: A Family Chronicle

By Cherie Smith

© 1997

Through a unique combination of biography, memoir, and autobiography, Cherie Smith traces four generations of her immigrant family and, in doing so, charts the very course of Russian-Jewish immigration to the Canadian prairies over the last one hundred years. Mendel's Children: A Family Chronicle begins in the shtetles of Poland and Latvia in the 1890s and follows an often wild and woolly assortment of relatives as they strive to become Canadians. Meet Great-Grandfather Mendel, the dairyman, who started it all by siring five sons and four daughters; Robert and Sarah, who are conned out of their tickets to gold-rushing San Francisco and stranded in Winnipeg; Iser, a boy of 14, who is inspired to leave Russia after reading The Last of the Mohicans; Maxwell, the rum-runner; Jake, the quintessential schlemiel; and Morris, with his ever-diminishing thumb; Big Bessie and Ida, the battling aunts who fight to the death in their own private strudel war; Solomon, the Gentle, and gutsy Etza, caught up in war, revolution, and exile; and finally, the long-lost Margarita, who leaves the Soviet Union in 1990 to make a new life for herself and her children in Vancouver.
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Product Details

  • Publisher: University of Calgary Press
  • Page Count: 191 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.9in x 0.5in x 8.9in
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  • PUBLISHED SEP 1997
    From: $19.95
    ISBN 9781895176858

Mendel's Children: A Family Chronicle

By Cherie Smith

© 1997

Through a unique combination of biography, memoir, and autobiography, Cherie Smith traces four generations of her immigrant family and, in doing so, charts the very course of Russian-Jewish immigration to the Canadian prairies over the last one hundred years. Mendel's Children: A Family Chronicle begins in the shtetles of Poland and Latvia in the 1890s and follows an often wild and woolly assortment of relatives as they strive to become Canadians. Meet Great-Grandfather Mendel, the dairyman, who started it all by siring five sons and four daughters; Robert and Sarah, who are conned out of their tickets to gold-rushing San Francisco and stranded in Winnipeg; Iser, a boy of 14, who is inspired to leave Russia after reading The Last of the Mohicans; Maxwell, the rum-runner; Jake, the quintessential schlemiel; and Morris, with his ever-diminishing thumb; Big Bessie and Ida, the battling aunts who fight to the death in their own private strudel war; Solomon, the Gentle, and gutsy Etza, caught up in war, revolution, and exile; and finally, the long-lost Margarita, who leaves the Soviet Union in 1990 to make a new life for herself and her children in Vancouver.
Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Publisher: University of Calgary Press
  • Page Count: 191 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.9in x 0.5in x 8.9in
"Ms. Smith has struck a balance between anecdotes and remarkably readable history. Mendel's Children brings rural Jewish life in Canada into a vivid new light." -- The Western Jewish Bulletin "Mendel's Children is an unforgettable, multigenerational story. The stuff of which family legends and television miniseries are made!" -- The Midwest Book Review "Early-century life in Prairie town portrayed with wit and feeling." -- Elaine Kalman Naves in The Montreal Gazette "Cherie Smith's family chronicle is written with such storytelling skill, with such an honest and compassionate clarity, that the reader turns page after page with growing fascination. Against the epic Russian turmoil of pogroms and injustices, and against the blatant anti-Semitism of an earlier Canada, Ms. Smith emphasizes above all, the mortal dimensions of Mendel's children. In these too brief pages, she, remarkably, and in very human terms too, sustains the drama of one hundred years of a family history. It should inspire readers to pick up their pens and consider their own family histories." -- Wayson Choy, author of The Jade Peony and Trillium Award winner "Cherie Smith does not pretend to teach history but no historian or general reader will doubt the authenticity of her portrayal of life in small Canadian towns, or regret coming across such a work." -- Haim Avni, Professor of Jewish Contemporary History, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem "Cherie Smith possesses a gift of being able to investigate the past with freshness, insight, and humour, but entirely without pretense. The people of whom Smith writes may not have been powerful shapers of human affairs on a national scale, but they contributed enormously to the indestructible fabric of Jewish life in a country whose citizenry, economy, and climate were often inhospitable. Saints and sinners, Mendel's children have one thing in common: they are folks you would have enjoyed meeting." -- Morley Torgov, author of The Outside Chance of Maximilian Glick and winner of the 1983 Leacock Medal for Humou
The late Cherie Smith was born in Saskatchewan and graduated from the University of British Columbia. A founding member of UBC's Prism magazine, she was an editor with November House for several years.