You Never Call! You Never Write!: A History of the Jewish Mother

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Oxford University Press, Mar 1, 2008 - Social Science - 321 pages
2 Reviews
In You Never Call, You Never Write, Joyce Antler provides an illuminating and often amusing history of one of the best-known figures in popular culture--the Jewish Mother.
Antler traces the odyssey of this compelling personality through decades of American culture. She reminds us of a time when Jewish mothers were admired for their tenacity and nurturance, as in the early twentieth-century image of the "Yiddishe Mama," a sentimental figure popularized by entertainers such as George Jessel, Al Jolson, and Sophie Tucker, and especially by Gertrude Berg, whose amazingly successful "Molly Goldberg" ruled American radio and television for over 25 years. Antler explains the transformation of this Jewish Mother into a "brassy-voiced, smothering, and shrewish" scourge (in Irving Howe's words), detailing many variations on this negative theme, from Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint and Woody Allen's Oedipus Wrecks to television shows such as "The Nanny" and Larry David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm." But she also uncovers a new counter-narrative, leading feminist scholars and stand-up comediennes to see the Jewish Mother in positive terms.
A joy to read, You Never Call, You Never Write will delight anyone who has ever known or been nurtured by a "Jewish Mother," and it will be a special source of insight for modern parents. As Antler suggests, in many ways, "we are all Jewish Mothers" today.

"After reading this, you'll call, you'll write, and you'll say thank you!"
--Judy Gold, comedian

"More than a history of Jewish motherhood, this book offers a fresh perspective on Jewish history, women's history, and the history of popular culture that is both informative and entertaining.... Readers will finish the book with a fuller and more nuanced understanding of the history of the Jewish mother--and mothers in general."
--Library Journal

"As educational as it is riotous...go buy this book and call your mom."
--The Jewish Magazine

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You never call! you never write!: a history of the Jewish mother

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

More than a history of Jewish motherhood, this book offers a fresh perspective on Jewish history, women's history, and the history of popular culture that is both informative and entertaining. Antler ... Read full review

Review: You Never Call! You Never Write!: A History of the Jewish Mother

User Review  - Jennifer - Goodreads

I liked the last half of the book. The first half was all information I knew. The writing style was kind of abrupt and smooshed together various sources. It could have been smoother with more original prose. Read full review

About the author (2008)


Joyce Antler is the Samuel Lane Professor of American Jewish History and Culture at Brandeis University. She is the author or editor of ten books, including The Journey Home: How Jewish Women Shaped Modern America and Talking Back: Images of Jewish Women in Popular Culture. She lives in Brookline, Massachusetts, with her husband, and is the mother of two daughters.

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