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April's Book Club at Midbar Kodesh: Modern Girls

Ileen Spoor sets Sunday, April 15 at 10:00 a.m. for the next Midbar Kodesh Temple Book Club. The selection is by Jennifer Brown who sets her debut novel in a time that women strive for the right to work, to vote and to lead independent lives. Brown boldly paints the 1935 historical context of two Lower East Side women’s domestic tribulations, alternating between their stories, and reflects upon the social consequences faced by women in different generations, as mother and daughter find themselves facing unwanted pregnancies.

Daughter 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 pregnant 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 anxious 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 again, she struggles to reconcile her longings with her faith.

A view of the sharp, difficult choices facing women on the cusp of equality, mirroring the obstacles that today's woman has to navigate, "Modern Girls" is a dazzling novel set in New York City's Jewish immigrant community, as mother and daughter wrestle with unthinkable choices, forced to confront their beliefs, the changing world, and the fact that their lives will never again be the same.

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