Bessie's Pillow, is written by the granddaughter of the main character in the book - Boshka Markman. Boshka upon entering America gets a new name - Elizabeth - which is later shortened to the "more Jewish" name of Bessie.
Bessie is an 18 year old Jewish immigrant from Vilna, Lithuania, more directly from Glubokoye, who is travelling on her own to America. She leaves behind her parents as well as her brothers. As she is leaving on the train a stranger asks her to carry a pillow to give to her son who also lives in America. She rides a train from Vilna to Hamburg and then has to wait to be cleared to board the ship which will travel for almost 2 weeks to America. Along her journey the inscription "May this pillow bring you peace", written in Yiddish, will be a comfort to her for some time.
Once arriving in America, after going through some trials that many of us would find very difficult to pass through ourselves, she then has to make her way to some family and friends whom she has not seen in many years. The images portrayed through the thoroughly descriptive words of all that Bessie encounters are vivid. I can not imagine leaving my family and not knowing if I'd ever see them again. You begin to see her transformation from a young, unknowing immigrant to life as a citizen of the beautiful country of America where dreams come true ... even if they may not be the dreams you initially envisioned.
This story, set in the early 1900's, shows a different time and culture then the America we know now in the 21st century. There are, however, similarities. We still have trials, disappointments, joy, and death and the character we have been taught or instilled in us helps us to deal with each of those entities as we persevere. I felt myself drawn in with each new story that both shaped and changed Bessie and I know you will be drawn in as well.
Here are some of my daughter Arianna's thoughts:
"I would recommend this book to those who are older - teens and above. Some of the descriptions of life and such were quite vivid and might not be good for those younger. They might get scared or nervous or just be sensitive.
I thought this story was both fun and exciting. Bessie's life was a big adventure travelling from Lithuania to America all by herself at the young age of 18. If I had to do what Bessie does I know that I would be sad and depressed. I have no idea how she was able to have the strength to leave her family and know that she might not ever see them again.
Reading this book has made me want to know more about my family heritage - where my parent's families came from. I wonder if any of them had to make such hard choices and come to America to make a better life and escape what seemed to me to be total despair. Without spoiling the end, going through tough trials Bessie's story ends with a different focus then how it began. You will need to read it on your own to figure out what I mean."
At the end of the book there are a myriad of pictures that help connect us to the characters we met along the way in Bessie's story. Not only that, but you can also explore how life really was during the late 19th to early 20th centuries by delving into "Bessie's America" and the many links, movie clips, recipes, and more available on that site.
|Listening to a silent movie.|
My daughter's had fun watching some 'silent' movies and we all even watched a few popular cartoons of the time. If you are interested in your heritage this site also has some jumping off points where you can start to trace down your own heritage through the Immigration area. And if you want more info you can check into the Teacher's Guide that was created to help go along with this book.
You can purchase this book for $15 from Strong Learning, Inc. You can also find them on Facebook and on Twitter. Be sure and check out more reviews by clicking the link below: