A reading by Rhea Perlman
December 11, 1922 - The Bronx
August 22, 2007 - Thetford, Vermont
"“Active? Active has to have a reason. Listen,” she said sadly, “I’m surprised to see my neighbors making tra-la-la for Christmas.” My father couldn’t think of what to say to that. Then he decided: “You’re in America! Clara, you wanted to come here. In Palestine the Arabs would be eating you alive. Europe you had pogroms. Argentina is full of Indians. Here you got Christmas … Some joke, ha?”
Rita Perlman is the perfect reader for a Grace Paley story. Her voice and the exquisite artistry of Paley combine for a wonderful experience. If you have access to the story read it maybe first, then listen, then read again.
The story is set in New York City, centered upon a family of Yiddish speaking immigrants from Eastern Europe. The story shows us the universal tension in immigrant families between maintains their traditions and getting their children established as "real Americans", paving the way to success. Their daughter is known for having a very loud voice.
It is Chirstmas season, of course the family does not observe the holiday.
At the daughter's school, she is maybe ten, is asked, because of her loud voice, to play an important part in a play about the life of Jesus. As we see in the opening quote, this is a transition point for the parents, her mother objects to this and her father accepts.
A wonderful story.
Rita Perlman also reads, on You Tube, another story by Grace Paley, "Goodbye and Good Luck". (I posted on this back in 2013 and loved hearing it read.). Set in the venue of the Yiddish theater, I loved it.