While Bella Spewack’s Streets is one woman’s memoir, it also tells us more generally about European immigrants’ experiences in urban America at the turn-of-the twentieth century. For this essay, you will explain what this one memoir can tell us about immigrant life. Is it effective in capturing the lives of turn-of-the-century immigrants? In what ways does it alert us to the problems that immigrants faced? In what ways does it display the triumphs and pleasures of life in the tenements? Provide specific textual examples of these struggles and triumphs. Assessing this evidence, would you say that Streets is above all a story about struggle, or a story about survival? Why?
Other questions to consider (should you need to fill up more space): What CAN’T the source tell us? What are some of its limitations?
What are the risks of using one memoir to tell the story of twentieth century immigration at large?
Additional guidelines and pet peeves:
- This paper should be 3-4 pages, 12-point font, double-spaced.
- When you provide textual examples, please cite page numbers (I have no preference re: format. Parentheticals are fine. No bibliography necessary).
- Streets is a memoir, and therefore not a novel. So please do not refer to it as such. But you may call it a book, a memoir, an autobiography, or a narrative.
- Avoid making too many references to the present. I want you to think about Spewack’s experiences on their own terms, and not just as they compare to our present-day lives.
- I do care about mechanics, grammar, and the cleanliness of your writing. So please do save time for proofreading!