Mazal Tov to
Gail Feinstein Forman
for the American Lives
San Diego Jewish Times, September
Donald H. Harrison.
you want to get to know a country, there is no better way than to learn the
personal stories of its inhabitants This
is what San Diegan Gail Feinstein Forman provides for immigrants and others
newcomers to American history in the American Lives series of books
issued by New Readers Press.
In each of the first three volumes intended for adult education
classes, Forman has encapsulated the biographies of 15 prominent American men
and women. They represent many of
the ethnic backgrounds that through diversity bring strength and adaptability
to our country. I’m pleased
that in each of the initial three volumes in the series, one can find the
biography of a Jew. These stories
are about anthropologist Franz Boas, poet Emma Lazarus, and Supreme Court
Justice Felix Frankfurter.
Readers will delight in learning about people from other backgrounds as
well. For example in Volume 1, Feinstein treats in addition to Boas
such luminaries as Abigail Adams, George Washington, Paul Revere, Noah
Webster, Ulysses S. Grant, Sojourner Truth, Thomas Edison, Jane Addams, Jim
Thorpe, Amelia Earhart, Louis Armstrong, John Glenn, Amy Tan, and Jaime
Each short biography is followed by comprehension exercises. For
example, readers of the piece on Lazarus are asked to check the correct
answer. “In the 1880s, many
Russian Jews came to the United States___a) to escape anti-Semitism in Russia,
or________b) to become prosperous merchants.”
If the students read the book, they’ll have not a scintilla of doubt
that Choice A is the correct answer.
In addition, following each selection, the new reader’s mastery of
vocabulary is tested. For
example, in the piece on Boas, students may choose to fill in the blank with
either the word “anthropology” or “race”:
“Your success in life should not depend on your _________.
also are introduced in connection with the reading.
Following the selection about Felix Frankfurter, for example, there is
a flow chart showing the process by which a Supreme Court justice is
selected—certainly very timely for today!
After studying the flow chart, the reader should be able to answer the
question: “If the Senate does not confirm the president’s nominee,” with
the answer, “the president chooses another nominee.”
Although the series is
intended for “new readers,” all of us could benefit from Forman’s
concise statements and examples about America’s civic values.
She deserves congratulations for a job well done!