Her exaggerated coiffure, with its imitation curls and soaped curves that stick out at the side of the head like fantastic gargoyles, is an offense to the eye. Her plated gold jewelry with paste stones reveals its cheapness by its very extravagance.
This description of a "ghetto girl" was printed in the American Jewish News in 1918, but with slight variation it might easily be mistaken for a description of our current pernicious and pejorative stereotype of Jewish womanhood, the "JAP." What are the origins of these stereotypes? And even more important, why would an American ethnic group use racist terms to describe itself? Riv-Ellen Prell asks these compelling questions as she observes how deeply anti-Semitic stereotypes infuse Jewish men's and women's views of one another in this history of Jewish acculturation in the twentieth century.
Gutsy and imaginative . . . convincingly engages a range of complex issues about how men and women, Jews and gentiles, perceive one another. --Kirkus Reviews "While Jews and feminists have over the years repeatedly debated whether the JAP is 'real' or not, Prell's research breaks new ground because she examines the class anxieties underlying the image. . . . [Fighting to Become Americans] will challenge any reader's preconceptions about who is and is not an American and why." --Laura Brahm, The Women's Review of Books
"Well-written and lively." --Jewish World
"A definitive and fascinating history of the complex relationships between Jewish men and women in the twentieth century." --George Cohen, Booklist
"[S]hows how the stereotypes we accept and create about ourselves mirror our anxieties in American society. . . . [Prell's] analyses are telling and original." --Ruth F. Brin, St. Paul Pioneer Press