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Among Those Who Stand
This dissertation consists of a story collection along with a critical introduction. The critical introduction explores how the work engages with and struggles against contemporary dilemmas of new Jewish-American fiction. Many of the characters who populate these twelve stories find themselves haunted by the Holocaust, foreign and strange as it seems, and seek—consciously or subconsciously—to connect or reconnect with the cultural, ethnic, and historical dimensions of their Jewish identities. This search for an authentic or true identity sometimes takes a mythical and spiritual form, drawing from biblical texts, and sometimes sets the characters on journeys of personal exploration and reverse immigration within the U.S. and beyond. In addition, the stories draw from common landmarks of the Jewish-American literary tradition, such as alienation within one’s home, the schlemiel, anti-Semitism, acculturation, and the dramatization of Jewish stereotypes in order to refute them. The stories are grounded in the realist tradition and they teeter between the real and surreal. They are voice-driven and offbeat, and they are somber and reflective. Some examples: “I Am Here” is the story of a man who travels to Poland and Ukraine to meet a girl he’s been dating online but instead finds himself on a journey of ancestral discovery when he lifts a magic, reappearing button from the soil of Auschwitz/Birkenau. “The Stranger” is about a New Yorker in Nebraska whose reality becomes corrupted by images lifted from his B-movie binge. “In the Dust of Their Feet” is about a man who rebuilds a Lithuanian shtetl in the Catskills for his dying grandfather and rebels against the spirits that come to occupy it. These stories and others—and the variety of narrative styles and settings employed within them—are intended to illustrate the breadth of conflicts and experiences that define American Jewish life today.
Rubenfeld, Shawn Michael, "Among Those Who Stand" (2020). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI27956163.