Winner of the National Jewish Book Award
The definitive biography of the poet whose sonnet "The New Colossus" appears on the base of the Statue of Liberty, welcoming immigrants to their new home.
Emma Lazarus's most famous poem gave a voice to the Statue of Liberty, but her remarkable life has remained a mystery until now. She was a woman so far ahead of her time that we are still scrambling to catch up with her--a feminist, a Zionist, and an internationally famous Jewish American writer before these categories even existed.
Drawing upon a cache of personal letters undiscovered until the 1980s, Esther Schor brings this vital woman to life in all her complexity. Born into a wealthy Sephardic family in 1849, Lazarus published her first volume of verse at seventeen and gained entree into New York's elite literary circles. Although she once referred to her family as "outlaw" Jews, she felt a deep attachment to Jewish history and peoplehood. Her compassion for the downtrodden Jews of Eastern Europe--refugees whose lives had little in common with her own--helped redefine the meaning of America itself.
In this groundbreaking biography, Schor argues persuasively for Lazarus's place in history as a poet, an activist, and a prophet of the world we all inhabit today-a world that she helped to invent.
Jewish Encounters Series
About the Author
Esther Schor, a poet and professor of English at Princeton University, is the author of Bridge of Words: Esperanto and the Dream of a Universal Language, Strange Nursery: New and Selected Poems, My Last JDate, and Bearing the Dead: The British Culture of Mourning from the Enlightenment to Victoria. Her essays and reviews have appeared in The Times Literary Supplement, The New York Times Book Review, The New Republic, and the Forward. She lives in New Jersey.
“Schor brings to life the complicated, passionate woman who left us our proudest national image. A work of great empathy an meticulous historical research.”
–Kevin Baker, author of Paradise Alley
“In this luminous, enthralling biography, Esther Schor recovers one of the outstanding women of nineteenth-century letters, who while inventing her life as an American Jewish writer discovered a larger poetic mission for the entire nation.”
–Sean Wilentz, author of The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln
“Esther Schor, herself a poet of authentic distinction, has composed a very moving and highly useful biographical critique of Emma Lazarus, a permanent poet in American and in Jewish tradition.”
–Harold Bloom, author of The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages
“It is a rare book indeed that so skillfully melds biography, literary analysis, and cultural history. In describing Emma Lazarus and her circle, Schor tells the story of American Jewry in the nineteenth century, paints a portrait of literary New York in one of its heydays, explicates many beautiful and long-neglected poems, and instills in us a canny affection for a subject who is forceful and sometimes overbearing but also brilliant and compassionate. Schor’s prose is as lyrical and rich in images as the poetry she describes in this intimate, often touching volume.”
–Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression