Yudl and Other Stories
Layle Silbert grew up in Chicago, the daughter of Russian Jews. Her poetry and short stories have appeared in literary magazines and in five different collections. This recent, posthumous collection, Yudl and Other Stories, reveals the author’s continued reflection on this experience. The stories follow a linear timeline, focusing on Ellen, a daughter of Russian Jews who live in 1920s Chicago. It begins with a disorienting story told from the point of view of a very young Ellen, and through each successive story, we watch Ellen grow up in an immigrant milieu and become embarrassed by her parents’ foreignness.
Dividing the collection is a long story told from the point of view of Ellen’s father, Yudl. It is through his story that we learn to appreciate immigrant feelings of exclusion. A motif of the famous Italian anarchists, Sacco and Vanzetti, symbolizes the complexity of these pressures of loyalty to an immigrant society while enduring the prejudices of American society. In “LaSalle Street Station,” Yudl tells Ellen that Sacco and Vanzetti have been executed. In the same story Ellen’s mother Ryah has left Yudl. While no explanations are given, and Ryah is present in the next story, this rupture in her family’s existence parallels the loss and bewilderment this execution brought to the American immigrant experience. Throughout this collection, Silbert’s photographic experience adds light and shadow to her settings, while her minute observation of smell helps to re-create 1920s America. This is a slow-paced, thoughtful collection with elegant prose and ironic overtones.