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Emma Lazarus
Emma Lazarus
Author:Esther Schor

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Number of Pages:348

Hard Cover


A pioneering biography of the iconoclastic nineteenth-century poet and activist whose verse gave a voice to the Statue of Liberty, but whose extraordinary life has remained a mystery until now.

Emma Lazarus was a woman so far ahead of her time that we are still scrambling to catch up with her. Before these categories even existed, Lazarus was a feminist, a Zionist, and an internationally famous Jewish-American writer. Drawing upon a cache of personal letters undiscovered until the 1980s, Esther Schor brings this vital woman to life in all her fascinating complexity, combining a scholar’s familiarity with Lazarus’s world with a poet’s sympathy for her subject. Born in 1849 into a wealthy Sephardic family, Lazarus published her first volume of verse when she was just 17 and gained entaére into New York’s elite literary circles. Although she called herself an “outlaw” Jew, she nevertheless 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. Schor brings to life a Jew with few fellow travelers: Lazarus made her coreligionists uncomfortable with her Zionist views and she made Christians squirm with her denunciations of anti-Semitism. This groundbreaking biography argues persuasively for Lazarus’s place in history as a poet, an activist, and a prophet of the world we inhabit today—a world that she helped to invent.