In his new graphic nonfiction narrative book “When I Grow Up, the Lost Autobiographies of Six Yiddish Teenagers,” author and New Yorker cartoonist Ken Krimstein deftly gives life to the never-told stories of six Jewish teenagers in the lost world of Yiddishuania, formerly Poland/Lithuania.
In the 1930s, the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, then based in Vilna, invited Yiddish-speaking 13 to 21 year olds to enter an autobiography contest; the grand prize would be 150 zlotys, roughly $1000 in today’s dollars. More than 700 entries were submitted, then read and judged by YIVO staff in Vilna. The Grand Prize was to be awarded on Sept. 1, 1939, the very same day the Nazis invaded Poland.
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