Family Chronicle: An Odyssey from Russia to America
Author: Charles Reznikoff
Publisher: Markus Wiener Publishers (1988)
The eminent poet and author of By the Waters of Manhattan offers three stories in this moving and engrossing memoir. Writing in his mother's voice, his father's voice, then his own, Reznikoff tells of his parents' precarious but lively existence in the old world (provincial Russia), their labors in the new and his own perspective on the years of difficult working conditions, which took a tremendous toll on his parents' health. Tragedies and heady successes, humorous moments and mundane events are all presented in a straightforward, economical and precise style. The accumulation of details enables the reader to become intimately involved with the lives of Sarah and Nathan Reznikoff, seamsters, who come to late 19th century America full of hope but find that they must constantly struggle to earn a living, as they confront the humiliation of peddling, the ups and downs of the market and the pitfalls of a partnership. Yet, still they dream, if not for themselves, then for their offspring: "If it was their doom because they had come to the country penniless and ignorant, if they were to be worms and crawl about, their children should have wings." Reznikoff, who died in 1976, privately published Family Chronicle in 1963.