Emily Bingham
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Buy *Mordecai: An Early American Family* online

Mordecai: An Early American Family
Emily Bingham
Hill & Wang
368 pages
May 2004
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Mordecai traces the evolution of three generations of an American Jewish family who faced the challenges of fitting in as patriotic Americans and Southern middle-class whites. In fact, it can be said that the Mordecais and other families like them helped to create and define what we have come to know as the middle class.

Jacob and Judy Mordecai had grown up in Jewish communities in New York and Philadelphia, so their migration to Virginia and final settlement in North Carolina was, to say the least, a culture shock. For the publicity then, as now, is that America accepts - even welcomes - all religions. Their actual reception ranged from lukewarm with minor snubs to outright freezing the family out of the Jewish community activities.

Yet, by their determination to educate themselves on the ways of their environment, their tenacious hard work, and their impeccable upright character, they began gradually to shred the cloth of isolation.

Mordecai is not just the story of a Jewish immigrant family trying to fit into the American way of life; it could be the story of any family that came over on the boats. That is what makes it so compelling. There are specifics about the family including pictures, but the overall theme conveys the idea that in a way every reader has been through the experiences described.

The narrative is artfully arranged and faithfully followed. The characters range from sympathetic (sometimes even the “bad” guy) to the obnoxious. Throughout it all, the characters remain real - you can almost hear them breathe from the page. The settings are well described from the squalor of the neophytes to the lushness of the successful veterans.

Mordecai will take you back in time and make you appreciate what each new race had to face when coming to America. After you read it, you will have new respect for your forefathers.

© 2005 by Camden Alexander for

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