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Mordecai: An Early American Family

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An Intimate Portrait of a Jewish American Family in America's First Century Mordecai is a brilliant multigenerational history at the forefront of a new way of exploring our past, one that follows the course of national events through the relationships that speak most immediately to us--between parent and child, sibling and sibling, husband and wife. In Emily Bingham's sure An Intimate Portrait of a Jewish American Family in America's First Century Mordecai is a brilliant multigenerational history at the forefront of a new way of exploring our past, one that follows the course of national events through the relationships that speak most immediately to us--between parent and child, sibling and sibling, husband and wife. In Emily Bingham's sure hands, this family of southern Jews becomes a remarkable window on the struggles all Americans were engaged in during the early years of the republic. Following Washington's victory at Yorktown, Jacob and Judy Mordecai settled in North Carolina. Here began a three generational effort to match ambitions to accomplishments. Against the national backdrop of the Great Awakenings, Nat Turner's revolt, the free-love experiments of the 1840s, and the devastation of the Civil War, we witness the efforts of each generation's members to define themselves as Jews, patriots, southerners, and most fundamentally, middle-class Americans. As with the nation's, their successes are often partial and painfully realized, cause for forging and rending the ties that bind child to parent, sister to brother, husband to wife. And through it all, the Mordecais wrote--letters, diaries, newspaper articles, books. Out of these rich archives, Bingham re-creates one family's first century in the United States and gives this nation's early history a uniquely personal face.


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An Intimate Portrait of a Jewish American Family in America's First Century Mordecai is a brilliant multigenerational history at the forefront of a new way of exploring our past, one that follows the course of national events through the relationships that speak most immediately to us--between parent and child, sibling and sibling, husband and wife. In Emily Bingham's sure An Intimate Portrait of a Jewish American Family in America's First Century Mordecai is a brilliant multigenerational history at the forefront of a new way of exploring our past, one that follows the course of national events through the relationships that speak most immediately to us--between parent and child, sibling and sibling, husband and wife. In Emily Bingham's sure hands, this family of southern Jews becomes a remarkable window on the struggles all Americans were engaged in during the early years of the republic. Following Washington's victory at Yorktown, Jacob and Judy Mordecai settled in North Carolina. Here began a three generational effort to match ambitions to accomplishments. Against the national backdrop of the Great Awakenings, Nat Turner's revolt, the free-love experiments of the 1840s, and the devastation of the Civil War, we witness the efforts of each generation's members to define themselves as Jews, patriots, southerners, and most fundamentally, middle-class Americans. As with the nation's, their successes are often partial and painfully realized, cause for forging and rending the ties that bind child to parent, sister to brother, husband to wife. And through it all, the Mordecais wrote--letters, diaries, newspaper articles, books. Out of these rich archives, Bingham re-creates one family's first century in the United States and gives this nation's early history a uniquely personal face.

30 review for Mordecai: An Early American Family

  1. 5 out of 5

    Marisa

    Since I work at one of the Mordecai homes, this book is such an invaluable source for me. Even though the focus is more on the Richmond/Warrenton Mordecais instead of the Raleigh Mordecais (the ones who lived in the house where I'm currently employed), the story of the Mordecais as a family unit is essential to understanding either branch of the family. Emily Bingham writes with such lyrical language that Mordecai: An American Family reads more like a novel than a piece of nonfiction. Her skill Since I work at one of the Mordecai homes, this book is such an invaluable source for me. Even though the focus is more on the Richmond/Warrenton Mordecais instead of the Raleigh Mordecais (the ones who lived in the house where I'm currently employed), the story of the Mordecais as a family unit is essential to understanding either branch of the family. Emily Bingham writes with such lyrical language that Mordecai: An American Family reads more like a novel than a piece of nonfiction. Her skill in making these people interesting and relatable, though not excusing their flaws, is evident from start to finish. I'm curious to know what people think of this book when they're not using it for very specific research purposes because I think it's excellent. Even for people who aren't doing laser-focused research on the Mordecai family, the book is a great read for anyone interested in Southern history, Jewish history, religious history, and/or women's history.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn Bundy

    I loved this book. It's certainly not for everybody, but what can I say? I'm a total geek. Plus, I had the privilege of hearthcooking at the Mordecai House in Raleigh once a month (or more) for nine years. I felt like it was "my kitchen" and felt rather proprietary about the family as well. Now I know a whole lot more about the family, after reading this book. It read, to me, like a soap opera. And how could it not? When you have that many strong personalities,and that many societal and religiou I loved this book. It's certainly not for everybody, but what can I say? I'm a total geek. Plus, I had the privilege of hearthcooking at the Mordecai House in Raleigh once a month (or more) for nine years. I felt like it was "my kitchen" and felt rather proprietary about the family as well. Now I know a whole lot more about the family, after reading this book. It read, to me, like a soap opera. And how could it not? When you have that many strong personalities,and that many societal and religious pressures, sparks are bound to fly. What made it even more interesting, were the offshoots I simply have to follow up now. It created more questions about things I had either not heard of before, or never thought of in the context of family ties. Curiosity abounds. And another field trip to Warrenton, NC is clearly in my near future. Whether you are familiar with Jewish American history, the Mordecai family, North Carolina or none of the above, this is an absorbing story of family loyalty, generational divide, conscience and the barriers we all face as we make our way though life.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Margaret Klein

    "So remarkable a family were they that I would their chronicle might be written in fuller fashion than I have ventured to do." This book is a fascinating story of an early American Jewish family that weaves verbose primary source material--letters, etc, of three generations of one family together with the history of their times, from the American Revolution through the Civil War. It is the kind of book I love, but not this one, and I am not sure why. At our book discussion, people seemed to thin "So remarkable a family were they that I would their chronicle might be written in fuller fashion than I have ventured to do." This book is a fascinating story of an early American Jewish family that weaves verbose primary source material--letters, etc, of three generations of one family together with the history of their times, from the American Revolution through the Civil War. It is the kind of book I love, but not this one, and I am not sure why. At our book discussion, people seemed to think there was an agenda--but if so I am not clear what. Was it that so many of the family became non-Jews--falling into a pattern of many of the early Jewish immigrants so that by the third generation they are no longer Jews? Was it that while there was a family covenant, not unlike so many Jews who wrote ethical wills, the covenant was more about making the family successful and keeping the family together rather than improving the world around them? Was it that the family was more interested in blending in and being successful than in their Jewish roots? Was it that I am not comfortable with the role that some Jews played in the South in keeping slavery, that peculiar institution alive? I am still not sure. My family and my husband's were both early immigrant families. But this history did not gain me new insights into their lives--although it does point out that some of the issues we face as a Jewish community today most certainly have their roots in the 19th century, not in the 1950s. But while the author calls them a remarkable family, I am less clear on that topic.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Elh52

    This book explains to me the Eisenkramers, Kahns, Frumans, and Morrises in the small Southern town of my youth. Good familes all. I can't say the book is compelling reading but it sure is interesting and its story worth knowing.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jocelyn Bailey

    Adored this biography. Reads like a novel.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    Sarah Vowell is just plain delightful. Period.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Moshe Gelberman

    fascinating

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dayna Mergenthaler

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rori

  10. 4 out of 5

    David

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mandy M.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Emma Gardner

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bill

  15. 5 out of 5

    Allison

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mary Joy

  17. 4 out of 5

    Robin

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tabitha

  19. 5 out of 5

    Laura Arnold Arnold

  20. 5 out of 5

    Momma Aimee

  21. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Spranger

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alexis Hernandez

  23. 4 out of 5

    Amy Ariel

  24. 4 out of 5

    Karen

  25. 5 out of 5

    Barbara Schanne Atkins

  26. 5 out of 5

    Anita Streeter

  27. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Abram

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Rankin

  29. 5 out of 5

    Diane

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

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