This perceived abandonment of her father, and her father's leadership in her life left Anzia empty. She later wrote that pursuing the obsession to lift herself out of material poverty left her with poverty of the soul.
The magnitude of Anzia's decision to move from her family's heritage toward her own destiny can only be understood from the perspective of the family. And the familial considerations further created emotional strife from which Anzia could never separate herself. In Russia, and in America, the family was the foundation for success. One partner was the bread winner. The other kept the home, and provided a safe haven from which the warrior could come forth, compete in the marketplace, and return to find safety, and shelter. In Anzia's New York, families built successful teams, and rose out of poverty to receive the promise of a better life. Family was also the source of identity. Within the family children received the comfort and nurturing they needed to find courage to step into their own adult lives.
This experience was also the cultural understanding of the Jewish community. It was the hope that a man would rise to a place of economic success, so that his wife could be released from economic responsibility. A successful man's gift to his wife was that she could keep the home and the kids without any other worries. This strong family structure identified the Jewish life, and its continuance was dependant the woman's growing economic dependence. To shed this lifestyle meant that Anzia was further distancing herself from her heritage and a relationship with her father.
A fourth factor that shaped Anzia was in relation to her father's distant involvement was the anger over the conditions which his choices created. This anger, directed at others, family, children, fathers foolish decisions surfaced repeatedly in The Bread Givers.
Mother in the book continually reprimands her children severely for the least transgression. Father buys an empty store, having been swindled by a smooth talking shop keep, and mother unleashes a tirade like water finally forcing its way through a failing dam. But the anger is most clearly seen in a chapter regarding the landlady, and her request for the monthly rent.
The land lady appears at the door one day, requesting her due rent. Father pretends not to hear her, and continues to pray. In frustration, the landlady knocks the holy book from father's hand, steps on it, and demands her late rent. Father's response is to slap her twice, from which she gets a bloody nose, and father is arrested. The whole scene is an amusing juxtaposition of the old values which father holds against the new world necessity of paying the rent. When Reb Smolinsky (the father) says he can't pay because the kids are not able to find work, the landlady explodes "Why don't you go to work?" For this railing accusation, she becomes the villain of the rest of the chapter, but was this not the question burning inside Anzia? She was the character in the story that had to sell fish on the street to buy bread for dinner. She was the one who shared a single toothbrush with her siblings. She was the one who used a piece of torn shirt for a towel, which really had lost its ability to be a towel. "We only had a small piece of one of father's torn shirts as a towel, which we used to wipe the dirt from one or our faced to the other as we washed."
Something happens in the heart of a person when living is reduced to existing. For a while the person will look to themselves for an answer to solve the problems. If none can be found there, he or she will look to the community for reasons for the troubles. Lastly, and reluctantly will a person turn and begin to assess blame to those who should be protecting and providing for them. After a childhood of poverty, Anzia finally turned her blame into anger, and then the anger into a motivation for personal change. This place of personal emotional disorder was the cauldron which forged Anzia fiercely independent spirit. Her decision was that her life would be her own.
She became a self-directed person. Her emotional struggle and the refreshing bluntness with which she caught the details of life on the lower east side of Manhattan earned her attention, and fame, and a steady rise out of poverty's sticky grasp. Yet she was a person caught between two worlds as an adult. She has torn herself from the heritage and cultural identity of her father, yet that heritage left he unsuited to be completely a member of the wealthy caste into which she had ascended. She moved for a short time to the wealthy community of Hollywood, only to return after a year to the neighborhood she called home.
In one of the final chapters of The Bread Givers, Anzia reflected on her leaving, and returning through a poignant story of her mother's death. Her character had left the family, and become a teacher. At the news of her mother's failing health, she returns home to find her sisters gathered. They each have remained in a poverty-strewn life. In the middle of the chapter, the father arrived home, and as they discuss the future without mother, one daughter reminds her father of the joy of having their departed sister home again. "And what will she do?" Cries Reb Smolinsky. "Take her teaching wages, and give them to her father like a good daughter should?" Even in the death of her mother, at her father's moment of greatest need, and in her own emotional watershed, she is unable to have his approval.
A person's process of building self assurance and personal confidence begins in a family, with healthy emotional connectedness to that primary unit. Anzia aborted that process, and left the nurturing relationship within her father's home. She set out on her own dangerous journey of Americanization, and along the way fell victim to the idea that the American dream was reaching for someone else's dreams, or having someone else's values. Her father and mother found their American dream, as did the sisters in the book. Anzia's opinion of her success may have well been captured in the title of another of her books, published in 1932, All I Could Never Be.
Langston Hughes was born on February 1, 1902 in Joplin, Missouri. His father left his home early. His mother was Carrie Mercer Langston Hughes, and sought her living on the stages of Kansas City. His grandfather was Charles Langston, an Ohio abolitionist. As a young boy he grew up under the care of his grandmother on a rural farm in Lawrence Kansas. In 1914, his mother, and his stepfather moved the family to Lincoln, Illinois. In high school back in Cleveland, he was elected class poet, and editor of the senior class yearbook. He taught English to some families in Mexico in 1921 and also published his first prose piece, "Mexican Games." An excerpt from an article about Langston Hughes in Encarta 97, it says that he was discovered in 1925, while he was working as a busboy in a restaurant in Washington, D.C., when he accidentally left three of his poems next to the plate of Vachel Lindsay, an American poet. She helped him get publicity for his works which launched his writing career.
Langston Hughes was the father of the Harlem Renaissance and made many contributions on the behalf of African- Americans which led to the end of discrimination and segregation. Hughes was an important figure in the Harlem Renaissance because he was one of the most talented and famous black writers in his time. The Harlem Renaissance was the black movement during the 1920's which allowed the world got to see another side of African- Americans. People saw that blacks were poets, writers, talented artists with a valuable contribution to make to the American melting pot. Many barriers like segregation were decreased noticeably as a result of this urban artistic reformation.
Hughes was influenced by Jean Toomer, another black writer and poet. It seemed as though Hughes used his poetry as a way to combat against the ongoing struggle that African- Americans still face today. Many believe that his best poems were inspired by the city of Harlem. He was even called the "Poet-Laureate of Harlem" because of his understanding for the city.
One of Hughes's works mentioned in the book, The Langston Hughes Reader, is entitled, My Most Humiliating Jim Crow Experience. This short story is a true recollection from his childhood, and demonstrated the constant struggle against segregation, and prejudice. Hughes and a white friend of his go into a restaurant, and after being served, the white clerk charges him six times what the food is worth. He argued with the clerk and finally left with his friend. This…