Monday, February 18, 2013

Ekaterinoslav: One Family’s Passage to America, A memoir in verse by Jane Yolen 2012

"Jane Yolen’s new work combines her talents as a poet with her skill as a storyteller." from a review by Laurel Corona posted on the Jewish Book Council blog

The writer Jane Yolen has written an engaging volume of 35 poems that explore the lives of her grandparents and their eight children who left their home in Ekaterinoslav in Ukraine to come to America. The poems deal with the personal and the socio-political: her family and its life in the old country and the new. She divides the poems into three time frames - “Ekaterinoslav: 1873-1913, Passage: 1910-1914, and Greenhorns: 1914 -1939.

In a two-page “Note from the Poet” that precedes the poetry, Yolen sketches in what she knows about her grandparents, their trip to America and the family’s early life in Connecticut. But now that she is a grandmother there are no family members left who can fill in the many gaps in their family story, and she expresses regret that her father had never seemed interested or willing to talk about the past.

So she does some of the work that genealogists do – she contacts cousins for scraps of information and looks at documents which sometimes become the basis for poems. For example, the facts on a ship’s manifest about family members inspire a poem she calls “Manifests.” And she includes a number of family photos that are the source of poems, taken both in Ekaterinoslav and in America.

Yolen writes that she comes from a family of storytellers. She knows that family stories passed down are made up of truths, half-truths and total fabrications – intentional or otherwise. In her poetry she uses what she knows and what she supposes  in order to recover her family’s past both as a way to acknowledge their lives and as a way to help her to better understand the personalities and accomplishments of the many family she did not know at all or did not know well. And through her poetry she tries to apprehend how their lives shaped hers. She has used her inheritance, her gift for story telling, to create this wonderful "memoir in verse.”

To read about the history of the Jewish community in Ekaterinoslav, click here.

Samson Yolen – married to Mina Hyatt
   Louis Yolen – son of Samson and Mina
      Ruth – daughter of Louis
   Eva Yolen – daughter of Samson and Mina; twin sister of Sylvia; married Abe Dranoff
   Sylvia Yolen – daughter of Samson and Mina; twin sister of Eva; married Hyman Plotkin
   Vera Yolen Krassner – daughter of Samson and Mina
      Marsha Krassner, daughter of Vera
  Samuel Yolen – son of Samson and Mina; married Rose Pinkus
  Rose Yolen Davidow – daughter of Samson and Mina
  Velvel (Wulf, William) Yolen – son of Samson and Mina
      Jane Yolen – daughter of Velvel; author
  Harry Yolen – son of Samson and Mina

Relatives tagged in photos, exact relationships unclear: Micki Plotkin, Minnie Plotkin, Alvin Krassner, Claire Dranoff, Dorothy Yolen Mark, Eli Dranoff

Ekaterinoslav, Ukraine
New Haven, Connecticut
Waterbury, Connecticut


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