Synopses & Reviews
Drawn to an image of her great-grandfathers ornately carved cane, scholar Elisa New embarked on a journey to discover the origins of her precious family heirloom. Treading back across the paths of her ancestors, she travels from Baltimore to the Baltic to London in order to find and understand an immigrant world profoundly affected by modern German culture, from the Enlightenment through the Holocaust. Deeply ambitious in its narrative sweep, Jacobs Cane captures the rich texture of life on several continents as News family searches to establish itself in the tobacco trade. A fascinating history of one familys story of progress, innovation, and struggle, Jacobs Cane will change the way we think about the Jewish American experience.
"Harvard English professor New (The Line's Eye) wife of former Harvard president and current Obama adviser Larry Summers traces the journeys of two family patriarchs from Eastern Europe as she unravels the mysterious etchings on her great-grandfather's elegant cane. Great-grandfather Jacob Levy and great-great-uncle Bernhard Baron, both Jewish immigrants from the Baltic states, met in Baltimore, become friends and joined their families through marriage, but later became bitter rivals. Bernhard moved to London, where he became a tobacco magnate and legendary philanthropist who implemented a progressive set of workers' benefits. His Black Cat London factory is hailed today as a great art deco achievement. Jacob was a scholar, inventor and businessman who made a quixotic 1914 congressional run as the Socialist Party candidate. He founded a firm that today is a giant textile processor. But three of his sons chose to join Bernhard in London and changed their names to Baron. Although meandering and wordy, this engrossing memoir/family history vivifies the singular successes and tragedies of a memorable clan and should inspire readers to seek out their own family stories. B&w illus." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
A five-generation family memoir that poignantly captures the Jewish American immigrant story
About the Author
Elisa New is a Professor of English at Harvard University. She lives with her husband, economist Larry Summers, and their children in Brookline, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C.