Neal Karlen

Fun fact: The Yiddish term for "she's good in bed" apparently literally translates to "she knows how to dance the mattress polka." Poetic, no? Just in time for Passover, which begins at sundown a week from this Sunday, Neal Karlen is celebrating the release of The Story of Yiddish: How a Mish-mosh of Languages Saved the Jews, a book that is as fun as it is informative. Karlen, a Minneapolis native who grew up speaking Yiddish, maps out the history of the language, touching on Jewish law, poetry, and current pop culture along the way. Starting as a minor dialect birthed in 11th-century Italy and France, the "gutter language" grew to 13 million speakers by the 1930s, yet nearly faced death during World War II and the years immediately following (Yiddish was ironically loathed by both Nazis and Zionists). Nowadays, the language is flourishing as a legitimate dialect. Yiddish, much like the Jews themselves, is resilient, and has thankfully survived adversity. Emily Carter, who penned the bittersweet tale of debauchery Glory Goes and Gets Some, will also be reading today; she'll share a recently penned short story.
Sun., April 13, 7:30 p.m., 2008


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