Hunger and Thirst

Written by Daniela Kuper
Review by Viviane Crystal

“Dresses. Shoes. Feathers in hats. Pearls on necks. Silk stockings that demanded white gloves…Perfume. Real perfume, not toilet stuff. Perfume from Paris. Men from Paris…” This is the dream world of Winnie (Irwina), a young girl growing up in the Jewish culture of Chicago in the 1950s.

Despite the warnings of her dreaming but fearful family, Winnie marries Buddy Trout, who also shares her visions of stunning dress, jewelry and accessories. Determined to ascend in the fashion world, Winnie opens her own store and is so good at what she does that fashion moguls send their assistants to copy her current designs. But all that glitters is, indeed, not gold. For the shop is located in Winnie’s Ashkenazi community, and they neither want nor can afford fashionable clothing.

As the shop begins to fail, Buddy’s unfulfilled dreams and needs are insatiable, leading him to a world of drink, magic and the seduction of believing some new gimmick or design will alter their unlucky fortune. Unfortunately, their daughter, Joan, suffers from her parents’ frustrations and tensions. Joan cannot shed her identity but learns to use the positive skills she has learned from her parents and her Jewish culture. Kuper superbly portrays the humorous and haunting quality of 1950s Jewish culture where one is the captain of one’s ship—if you’re lucky enough to figure out which ship it is you’re steering.