The 2018 PopCult Gift Guide is not just for Christmas, but offers up gift suggestions for all the seasonal holidays. Today we’ve got a great pick for Hanukkah, particularly day three (December 4 this year) when the tradition is to give a book. This is appropriate for teens and up. I reviewed this book earlier this year, but felt it was too good a gift idea to leave out of the guide. I’ve been a fan of Trina Robbins comix since I was probably too young to be reading them. A pioneering underground cartoonist and comics historian, Robbins has always brought a strong sense of storytelling to her work. In last year’s PopCult Gift Guide I recommended both her autobiography and a collection of some of her best work.
In her autobiography she talks about a book her father, Max B. Perlson, wrote that was published in Yiddish in 1938, A Minyen Yidn (un andere zakhn), which translates roughly as “A Bunch of Jews (and other stuff)” was thought lost, until her daughter tracked down a new edition, and eventually an original printing. After having it translated from Yiddish, Robbins realized that it would make for some great comic book stories.
A Minyen Yidn (un andere zakhn) is a great collection of character sketches and short, mostly-funny tales of Jewish life, pre- and post- Immigration to America. In terms of the tone of this adaptation, it would fit perfectly on your comics library shelf between Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor, and Will Eisner’s A Contract With God.
Perlson was a talented writer who seemed to be working somewhat in the vein of James Thurber, maybe with a little traditional Jewish storytelling in the mix, too. This book presents snippets of Person’s life growing up in a shtetl in Belarus and immigrating to Brooklyn in the late 1910s at the age of 16.
Robbins no longer draws. For this book she has handed the scripts over to a group of terrific artists. The cover is by famed underground comic artist Barbara Mendes. Each of the 13 stories has been visually adapted by a different artist and includes contributions by: Steve Leialoha, Shary Flenniken, Eve Furchgott, Miriam Katin, Miriam Libicki, Sarah Glidden, Anne Timmons, Robert Triptow, Jen Vaughn, Elizabeth Watasin, Caryn Leschen, Joan Steacy, Ken Steacy, and Terry Laban. The effect is wonderful because each story is presented in a unique style, but they all combine into a cohesive whole because of the strong personality of the authors (father and daughter).
The stories are bright little vignettes that are very entertaining. Most are funny, though there is a tearjerker about a loyal dog, but all will hold your attention. The only problem is that the book is so brief. It really leaves you wanting more. That’s really not a bad problem to have.
A Minyen Yidn (un andere zakhn) is perfect for anyone with an interest in pre-WWII Jewish culture, but it will also appeal to fans of reality comics and good storytelling in general and makes a great Hanukkah gift . You should be able to order it from any bookseller, using the ISBN number, or you can get it from Amazon.