, the Jewish immigrant writer from Poland, is most famous for Bread Givers (1925), her tenement story of hard life on the Lower East Side. But she also harbored a lesser-known rich, snarky, and dark sense of humor. Her debut collection of short stories, Hungry Hearts (1920)–which showcases that humor–is available for free online.
Written in a snappy and quick style, stories like “The Free Vacation House” are both conversational and confessional. This one starts with a single mother
of three, about to have a nervous breakdown, who’s offered a free vacation house from the local Social Betterment Society.It’s like a nightmare straight out of a Kveller blog post
. The mother, accustomed to the constant frenzy of city life, is driven crazy by the rural tranquility and the quietness–as are her children. One is thrown out of a community playroom for being too rowdy. “Ain’t it a play-room?” asks the mother, disbelieving. “Don’t they let you play?”
Yezierska is known for her dark, uncompromising portraits of Jewish immigrant life. But if there’s any justice in the world, she’ll also be more well-known one day for the funny and irreverent side of those portraits, as well.