Celebrating "The Little Bride" with readings and song
Anyone who knows me would have been surprised to see me walking down Mass Ave in Cambridge the other night and into a hip club on the edge of the M.I.T.campus. What was I doing there?
Prism, the young adult initiative of the New Center for Arts and Culture, which brings the Jewish voice to the Greater Boston cultural scene, was presenting the Boston-area premier of an unusual collaboration between novelist Anna Solomon and singer songwriter Clare Burson. The program intermixes Anna reading from her recently published novel, The Little Bride, with Clare performing a song cycle she has written in response to her reading of Anna’s novel about a 16-year old Jewish mail-order bride who travels from Russia to South Dakota.
Anna Solomon stumbled on the topic a few years ago when, in the course of googling “Anna Solomon,” she came across a story that surprised her: there were Jewish women among the western pioneers. One was Anna Freudenthal Solomon, who settled with her husband and children in Arizona Territory in the late 19th century. Much of the inspiration for the novel came from a memoir written by another Jewish woman pioneer, Rachel Calof, who came to North Dakota as a mail-order bride in 1894.
Both of these women are featured in JWA’s online exhibit “Jewish Women Western Pioneers,” which was based on an exhibition “Stories Unseen: Jewish Pioneer Women, 1850-1910 The Art of Andrea Kalinowski.”
The combination of reading and music was unusual and effective. My appetite whetted, I bought a copy of the novel, which is absorbing and at times disturbing. I enjoyed Silver and Ash, Clare Burson’s last album, and hope these tunes find their way onto a CD soon.
As I sat listening to Anna and Clare, I noticed that there were only a handful of men in the room (other than those—undoubtedly “regulars”—who were watching the baseball game on the TV above the bar). I should have expected as much. In 1971 I took the first women’s history course ever listed in the Harvard University catalog, and there was not a male student in the class. Forty years later, men are still in short supply at lectures, courses, conferences, films, and teacher institutes where the subject is women’s history. (Music seems to be an exception. The male sex is decently represented at an “Indigo Girls” concert.) How much longer until men understand that women’s stories are their stories, too?