Friday, April 28, 2017

A Bintel Brief: Love and Longing in Old New York by Liana Finck

With an influx of Eastern Europeans, particularly Jews, immigrating to the United States in the early 1900s, New York City became a melting pot of language, culture, and tradition. For the ever-growing population of Eastern European Jews, whose language was predominantly Yiddish (a mix of German and Hebrew), The Jewish Daily Forward became their lifeline to the world. Published in Yiddish, this paper focused on politics, social issues, and even had an advice column.

Long before Dear Abby's column, The Jewish Daily Forward anonymously published readers' letters asking for advice on topics ranging from marriage to family to religion as these new immigrants assimilated in the United States. These letters were featured in a portion of the paper referred to as the bintel brief, or a bundle of letters.

A Bintel Brief by Liana Finck is a graphic novel retelling of actual letters submitted to the Jewish Daily Forward. From a concerned woman who believes her neighbor stole her watch to a more acculturated woman who is ashamed of her recently immigrated husband, Finck does a wonderful job creating the dialogue and illustrations. Following the brief explanation of the letter is an abbreviated version of the advice offered in the paper upon publication.

With a throw back to nostalgia, Finck's graphic novel is enough to transport you back to a simpler time.