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Inspired Wordsmith
Stephanie
Posts: 2,613
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Upstate New York

What a strange place for immigrants to end up... especially a man who was a mathematician. There certainly wasn't much up there back then. I wondered why they weren't in the city, where he might have gotten a better job than gravedigger. Your thoughts?

I'm slightly familiar with some of the Upstate areas Oates described, but of course, not in that time period. Knowing the shape of the area helped me in my understanding of where they were, what the weather was like, etc. How did those of you not familiar with the area feel about that aspect of the setting?
Stephanie
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Fozzie
Posts: 2,404
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Upstate New York



Stephanie wrote:
What a strange place for immigrants to end up... especially a man who was a mathematician. There certainly wasn't much up there back then. I wondered why they weren't in the city, where he might have gotten a better job than gravedigger. Your thoughts?

They were Jewish people, escaping before World War ll.  They did not speak English well, and the mother not much at all.  Normally, new immigrants would go where they had family in America, but I think they were the first from their family to go.  Remember how some of their family was coming to join them further into part two?
 
Given all this, I think they were hiding out, in a way.  That's why they chose a small town.  I bet they feared persecution of the Jews in America as well.  Also, Jacob could not get an equivalent job in America until he learned the language.  The grave digger's job came with a place to live too, which was crucial with a young family in tow. 
Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
Inspired Wordsmith
Stephanie
Posts: 2,613
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Upstate New York

Laura,

Still, Watertown (a medium sized town between Syracuse and Canada) is an eight hour drive from Manhattan today - I don't even know how they got up there, or what would draw them to that area. There aren't very many people up there today who haven't had family in the area for 150+ years. Newcomers are not necessarily welcome, either. It would have been much easier to get lost in the NYC area, and Long Island was filled with small towns at that time, there weren't even any highways out there then - just potato farms, etc.

It was the one part of the story that just made me go - "huh"
Stephanie
Frequent Contributor
va-BBoomer
Posts: 84
Registered: ‎01-21-2008
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Re: Upstate New York

I've been wondering about that, too.  The only thing might be Ms. Oates' familiarity with the area.  She has mentioned a Jewish grandmother; I wonder if she 'landed' up there, too, or if other ancestors were there first.  Even so, it still brings about the mystery of why way up there, instead of NYC or Long Island.
Wordsmith
Fozzie
Posts: 2,404
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Upstate New York



Stephanie wrote:
Laura,

Still, Watertown (a medium sized town between Syracuse and Canada) is an eight hour drive from Manhattan today - I don't even know how they got up there, or what would draw them to that area. There aren't very many people up there today who haven't had family in the area for 150+ years. Newcomers are not necessarily welcome, either. It would have been much easier to get lost in the NYC area, and Long Island was filled with small towns at that time, there weren't even any highways out there then - just potato farms, etc.

It was the one part of the story that just made me go - "huh"

I see your point now.  Definitely a reason to go "huh."  Maybe the author says something about the setting in an interview.  I will look after I finish the book.
Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
Inspired Wordsmith
Stephanie
Posts: 2,613
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Upstate New York

I do have some slight bias I suppose - I grew up in the Manhattan/Long Island area, and recently lived for two years north of Watertown in a small town near the Thousand Islands area. I just can't wrap my mind around immigrants - refugees- ending up there, especially after the mother just had a baby on the boat. I would have expected they would find an area in Manhattan where other Germans lived - people who spoke the same language, could help out, etc.

And I suppose you can guess, setting is important to me in a story, as important as any of the characters.

Group: How do you feel about setting, and the setting of this story, in particular?
Stephanie
Contributor
LindaMac
Posts: 5
Registered: ‎05-12-2008
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Re: Upstate New York

I agree, I think the setting, the area to choose to write a book like this  just wasn't very feng shui.  Would never of guessed the book took place in that area. Like someone said, maybe that area was very familiar with Joyce Carol Oates.  
Inspired Wordsmith
Stephanie
Posts: 2,613
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Upstate New York

I found this setting interesting, as I said, because I know the area somewhat, and had a fairly clear mental picture.  I did wish, when Rebecca started driving south, that she had continued driving south... she would have had such a wider scope of the world - but as it was, her son became what he was destined for - and I found that ultimately satisfying.  I think I was really just thinking about her getting away from Tignor, but I wanted to say, get to a city, a real city, and you'll be lost in the crowds, you'll find better work, and you can really live! 
 
Let's talk Tignor... what do you think attracted him to Rebecca?  Do you really think he had multiple families all over the Upstate area? 
 
 
Stephanie
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