Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Minnie Kusnetz (Mrs. Baron fon Habenikhts)

b. 1912, Ruzhany, Belarus
To Canada: 1929 To US: 1930s
Brooklyn, N.Y.

“I Haven’t Lost Anything by Coming to America”

Minnie Kusnetz’s spirited, optimistic story conveys the vicissitudes in the life of the youngest writer represented in this anthology, including her experiences as a child during the Polish-Soviet war. Unable to enter the United States directly because of the restrictive immigration laws then in place, she went to Canada and subsequently immigrated to the United States illegally. A proficient seamstress and active union member, Kusnetz gives a lively portrayal of work in the garment industry and clashes between workers and bosses in both Montreal and New York. She describes her courtship with Chaim Kusnetz, whose autobiography also appears in this collection. Notable for their rejection of the ethos of domestic consumption, and for their adherence to the Jewish dietary laws, the couple offers a rare glimpse at gender relations in marriage from the perspectives of both husband and wife.