Comrades and Chicken Ranchers (Paperback)

Comrades and Chicken Ranchers By Kenneth L. Kann Cover Image

Comrades and Chicken Ranchers (Paperback)


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Given its tumultuous history, one would hardly have expected Petaluma, California, to become transformed into the San Francisco bedroom suburb that it is today. It had been a small-town agricultural community, where Jewish chicken ranchers and radicals enjoyed a vigorous Yiddish cultural life, maintained intense political commitments, and took part in sharp conflicts among themselves and with the society beyond.

In this unique work of oral history, Kenneth Kann has ingeniously arranged and edited interviews with more than two hundred people, some of them telling their life stories in their own Yiddishized English. We meet an array of striking characters and families of three generations--East European immigrant settlers, their children, and their grandchildren.

The narrative begins with the immigrant generation's flight from the Old World and traces the immigrants' long, uneasy adjustment to life in America. It describes the dilemma of the members of the second generation, who find themselves torn between the ways of their parents and the gentile world around them. The book concludes with accounts of the third generation, who feel distant from their grandparents but who struggle to recover lost ethnic roots and are uncertain how to raise their children.

In this compelling chorus of voices, we find a Jewish Communist who describes being tarred and feathered in the 1930s and his grandson, recalling his own encounters, during the anti-war movement of the 1960s, with the grandchildren of the vigilantes who carried out the earlier assault. An immigrant proudly explains why she taught her children Yiddish, and a grandchild scolds his parents because they did not. One young woman finds the Jewish community too gossipy and confining; another is warmed by its closeness.

The cast is vibrant, their words both touching and often hilarious. Comrades and Chicken Ranchers is a delight.

Kenneth L. Kann practices law in San Francisco. He is also the author of Joe Rapoport: The Life of a Jewish Radical.
Product Details ISBN: 9780801480751
ISBN-10: 0801480752
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Publication Date: April 22nd, 1993
Pages: 336
Language: English