In an issue of Commentary magazine in 1969 I discovered a story by Johanna Kaplan that seemed to come straight out of my own past. A girl named Miriam plays a partisan of the Warsaw Ghetto in her summer camp’s Yiddish dramatic production for Parents’ Day. Having spent fourteen years at similar Jewish summer camps, sometimes also starring in such plays, I found several points of comparison, and I even knew the words to the song Miriam sings that brings down the curtain: “exhausted from this small victory, for our new, free generation.” But great fiction has it all over personal experience, for though I was not at all like Kaplan’s heroine, her summer at camp has remained more vivid to me than any of mine. Literature put life into sharper perspective.
Johanna Kaplan's Serious American Jewish Comedy
The characters in her new story collection are fully formed creatures of that transitional 20th-century moment between European Jewish survivors and American forgetters.