Lily of the Valley—An American Jewish Journey
This heartfelt saga in verse form is about five generations of women’s journeys from Russia’s persecuting pogroms of the 1890s to America during the 2000s, including Ellis Island and New York’s Lower East Side sweatshops.
The story is broken up into five parts, one for each of the women’s generation. The story begins and ends with Lily. Laili is a young girl who flees Russia during the pogrom of 1890’s that persecuted Jews. Her name changed to Lily on Ellis Island. Part Two tells the tale of Lily’s daughter, Molly, who unlike her mother, survives the fire in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Molly’s daughter, Lily, grows up during the Great Depression of the 1930s, but fortune smiles on her and she marries and has a daughter, Maxine whose tale about growing up in the 60s is told in Part Four. Maxine’s daughter Lily reaps the benefit of modern day America. But she acknowledges that her good fortune came about because of all the sacrifice and perseverance of the spirited women before her who had dreams of a better life— free of discrimination and persecution for being Jewish.
Author Xianna Michaels wastes no time diving into the theme of persecution and hope, with the first stanza explaining how the pogrom, and the attack on her mother and infant brother led to Lily and her sister, Basya, being sent on a ship, To the Goldene Medina, where life/Is free of fear and blood and strife. Michaels effectively gets to the crux of each story, maintaining the fast flow as all five generations of women trying to find their new identity while maintaining and learning about their Jewish heritage. Michaels reveals how life improves for each generation by infusing details that are also historical milestones—such as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that kills Molly’s mother and the mention of the G.I. Bill.
While the ababcc rhythm limits the narrative at times for the sake of rhyming, it works well at times to create a juxtaposition of light rhyme and heavy content during some of the heavier descriptions—including in the last two lines of the stanza: It was ninety two, the end had come/For this was Laili’s last pogrom.Though some of the descriptions to accommodate the rhyming scheme are simplified and don’t expound on the themes and details as much as they could; it makes this story suitable for a younger audience, and can be a spring board into rich discussion on themes about numerous events in history including Jewish immigrants in America and how they influence in New York’s culture.
Lily of The Valley—An American Jewish Journey is a beautiful tribute, not only to America—a land of opportunity and hope—but also to family, love and human spirit.
Alcabal Press, LLC