First published serially in the Yiddish daily newspaper di Varhayt in 1916–18, Diary of a Lonely Girl, or The Battle against Free Love is a novel of intimate feelings and scandalous behaviors, shot through with a dark humor. From the perch of a diarist writing in first person about her own love life, Miriam Karpilove’s novel offers a snarky, melodramatic criticism of radical leftist immigrant youth culture in early twentieth-century New York City. Squeezed between men who use their freethinking ideals to pressure her to be sexually available and nosy landladies who require her to maintain her respectability, the narrator expresses frustration at her vulnerable circumstances with wry irreverence. The novel boldly explores issues of consent, body autonomy, women’s empowerment and disempowerment around sexuality, courtship, and politics.
Karpilove immigrated to the United States from a small town near Minsk in 1905 and went on to become one of the most prolific and widely published women writers of prose in Yiddish. Kirzane’s skillful translation gives English readers long-overdue access to Karpilove’s original and provocative voice.