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Modern Girls
by Jennifer S. Brown

Published: 2016-04-05
Paperback : 384 pages
11 members reading this now
10 clubs reading this now
1 member has read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 1 of 1 members
A dazzling debut novel set in New York City’s Jewish immigrant community in 1935...
 
How was it that out of all the girls in the office, I was the one to find myself in this situation? This didn’t happen to nice Jewish girls.
 
In 1935, Dottie Krasinsky is the epitome of the modern ...
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Introduction

A dazzling debut novel set in New York City’s Jewish immigrant community in 1935...
 
How was it that out of all the girls in the office, I was the one to find myself in this situation? This didn’t happen to nice Jewish girls.
 
In 1935, Dottie Krasinsky is the epitome of the modern girl. A bookkeeper in Midtown Manhattan, Dottie steals kisses from her steady beau, meets her girlfriends for drinks, and eyes the latest fashions. Yet at heart, she is a dutiful daughter, living with her Yiddish-speaking parents on the Lower East Side. So when, after a single careless night, she finds herself in a family way by a charismatic but unsuitable man, she is desperate: unwed, unsure, and running out of options.
 
After the birth of five children—and twenty years as a housewife—Dottie’s immigrant mother, Rose, is itching to return to the social activism she embraced as a young woman. With strikes and breadlines at home and National Socialism rising in Europe, there is much more important work to do than cooking and cleaning. So when she realizes that she, too, is pregnant, she struggles to reconcile her longings with her faith.
 
As mother and daughter wrestle with unthinkable choices, they are forced to confront their beliefs, the changing world, and the fact that their lives will never again be the same….

Editorial Review

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Excerpt

Dottie



Friday, August 16, 1935


My lower back ached as I sat, shoulders rounded, hunched over like a number 9, on the wooden stool at my desk at Dover Insurance. I shifted my bottom, unable to find a comfortable position, as I picked up the statement atop the stack. I didn’t feel right: I had no fever, but my stomach sloshed and I needed another couple hours of sleep. The digits, though, drew me in, and I became absorbed in the dance of the numbers, the way they could come together and apart, making wonderful new combinations. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. Modern Girls focuses on a Jewish immigrant family during the Depression. Do you think that Rose and Dottie could as easily have been Irish or Italian or another immigrant ethnicity? Why or why not? If the story were set today, with a modern-day immigrant family, might the story be different?

2. Dottie’s friends have different ideas on what marriage should be. What did marriage mean in 1935? How has the definition of marriage changed?

3. Traditions—keeping kosher, lighting Shabbes candles, having a chuppah at her wedding—are important to Dottie, and she can’t imagine her life without them. What traditions would you have a hard time breaking? Do you believe in the values behind those traditions or do you maintain them simply because that’s what your family has always done?

4. Both Rose and Dottie have definitive ideas about what makes them modern women. Do you identify with their conceptions of the modern? Does holding on to tradition and “old-world” ideas make them less modern in your eyes?

5. Rose thinks Willie is a fool for wanting to travel to Europe at such a dangerous time; Edith admires him for his commitment to journalism and politics. What do you think of his decision? If you were Dottie, would you have gone with him?

6. Eugene spent a year and a half of his life with his aunt, and Rose feels that Eugene is a stranger to her. With Dottie gone, how do you think Rose and Eugene will fare? What do you see for Eugene’s future?

7. Many themes are touched on in this novel: motherhood, family, assimilation, immigration, the rights of women and workers. Which most resonated with you?

8. Rose changed her name and her age as she shed her past life to become an American. If you could start anew, what would you change?

9. How much does the place you live affect how you think of yourself? Are place and identity linked?

10. Dottie’s future is uncertain when the story concludes. What do you think will come of her marriage? What will her future bring?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
  "modern girls"by Carolynr (see profile) 03/05/18

3.5
you can read the review of the story For a debut novel I thought it was well written and a great mother/daughter story. However the book just ends. no hint of a sequel or an epilogue
... (read more)

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