From author Marian Leah Knapp comes a new release, Prohibition Wine, which touches on the real story of Rebecca Goldberg’s life. Unlike other biographies, which typically focus on people who live out-of-this-world lives, Rebecca Goldberg’s story is realistic and raw. There are no frills or out of the box adventures, but the book is still a captivating retelling of her challenging life.
Rebecca Goldberg moved at an early age to America with her family, in order to get a taste of freedom after years of Jewish persecution. However, life in America was filled with a plethora of challenges, and Rebecca herself experienced lots of loss and tragedy. After years of struggle through her young adulthood and early 30s, her life finally started to settle down for the better, until she lost her husband in a tragic accident. Through the loss of that source of income, Rebecca had to support her six children alone. She was one of the hidden figures in the prohibition, providing illegal wine to several of her neighbors and residents in her community. I’ll leave the rest of her impressive life for you to enjoy.
One of the main things I enjoyed about this book was its commitment in sticking to reality. While many authors try to make their subjects appear superhuman and unrelatable, I appreciated the genuine nature Rebecca Goldberg was portrayed in. I really enjoy stories about everyday people, and feel like the normal struggle isn’t typically portrayed in literature because it may be too boring. But, Rebecca’s story was moving and inspiring, while being extremely sad. She had to brush off the string of tragedies she faced in her life just because she had to keep supporting her family or those around her. It’s rare to come by a book that acknowledges this way of dealing with grief, and I was surprised to see it brought up here. This book acknowledges the painful realities of life head on, something I find admirable.
I also really loved the female focus in this book. I found the prohibition take super interesting, since I’ve only been exposed to prohibition takes through history books and have only glimpsed into an America without alcohol. I had no idea that there were so many traders and wine makers secretly running underground businesses in the prohibition, and this book actually opened my eyes up to that era and made me want to learn more. It also just demonstrated how powerful people can be when they are striving to survive. Rebecca Goldberg is a great role model for young women who are learning to become self sufficient and independent.
Another important topic this book covered was antisemitism, even before the ultimate devastation during World War II and the Holocaust. The story of the immigrant is one that I can resonate with due to my own past, but America is full of individuals from different backgrounds and perspectives, all weaving together. Being able to learn about a culture that isn’t mine, and learning about the hardships that Jewish people faced when coming to America, was also eye opening for me and helped me broaden my cultural perspective even more.
If I were to critique this book on one aspect, it would be its length. For such an interesting premise (and from the title), I did expect a bit more on the prohibition era as a whole, along with the intricacies that may have come from that era. I would’ve appreciated more on Rebecca Goldberg’s life as well, but I do understand that there were difficulties in collecting more information. However, this brevity could also be what made the book a huge highlight for me. It’s easily a one sitting read, but its impact is still monumental, and I really enjoyed it.
Overall, this book made me feel appreciative. Sometimes, it takes a humble hero to remind us all about how lucky we are to be in the positions and places we are today. That hero is Rebecca Goldberg.
Overall Review: 8.5/10