(AMHERST, Mass.) – A Bintel Brief, an exhibit of illustrations by graphic novelist Liana Finck, based on letters to the Forverts newspaper’s advice column in the early 20th century, is on display in the Brechner Gallery at the Yiddish Book Center through September 2013. The exhibit’s illustrated panels are excerpts from a graphic novel by Finck, to be published by Ecco Press in the winter of 2014.
Each of the eleven stories in the book is based on a different letter written to the Bintel Brief, a beloved Yiddish advice column published in the Forverts beginning in 1906. The column was the brainchild of the newspaper’s founding editor Abraham Cahan. The letters, written by recent immigrants to America, expressed a heightened sense of reality full of tragedy, hope, sweetness and humor.
Finck spent a year in Belgium on a Fulbright Scholarship, where she worked on a comic book based on the life of Georges Remi, the Belgian who drew the famous Tintin series. After she returned to New York, she set about starting a career as a cartoonist. Finck says, “I was trying to rediscover the person I’d been ignoring since I started college. I thought it would be interesting to write about something Jewish.”
A book her grandmother had given her, a collection of Bintel Brief letters translated into English, captured her imagination. “I feel very deeply connected with the stories,” she says, “and the mood of struggling and the very, very wry humor.”
In conjunction with the opening, Finck will offer a hands-on art workshop in which participants will incorporate one line from a Bintel Brief letter into a collage. At the end of the workshop the collages will be hung up side by side to make a giant comic strip. A Bintel Brief will be on exhibit in the Brechner Gallery at the Yiddish Book Center through September 2013.
The Yiddish Book Center is a nonprofit organization working to tell the whole Jewish story by rescuing, translating and disseminating Yiddish books and presenting innovative educational programs that broaden understanding of modern Jewish identity.