In 1916, on the immigrant blocks of the Southern port city of
Mobile, Alabama, a Romanian Jewish shopkeeper, Morris Kleinman, is
sweeping his walk in preparation for the Confederate veterans
parade about to pass by. "Daddy?" his son asks, "are we Rebels?"
"Today?" muses Morris. "Yes, we are Rebels." Thus opens a novel
set, like many, in a languid Southern town. But, in a rarity for
Southern novels, this one centers on a character who mixes Yiddish
with his Southern and has for his neighbors small merchants from
Poland, Lebanon, and Greece.
As Morris resides with his family over his Dauphin Street store,
enjoys cigars with his Cuban friend Pablo Pastor, and makes "a
living not a killing," his tale begins with glimpses of the old
Confederacy, continues through a tumultuous Armistice Day, and
leads up to the hard-won victories of World War II. Along the way
Morris sells shoes and sofas and endures Klan violence, religious
zealotry, and financial triumphs and heartbreaks. With his devoted
Miriam, who nurses memories of Brooklyn and Romania, he raises four
adventurous children whose own journeys take them to New Orleans
and Atlanta and involve romance, ambition and tragic loss.
At turns lyrical, comic, and melancholy, this tale takes
inspiration from its title. This Romanian expression with an
Alabama twist is symbolic of the strivings of ordinary folks for
sustenance, for the realization of their hopes and dreams. Set
largely on a few humble blocks yet engaging many parts of the
world, this Southern Jewish novel is, ultimately, richly
Subjects: Language & Literature
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