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Gary Barwin is a writer, composer, multimedia artist, and educator and the author of 17 books of poetry and fiction as well as books for both teens and children. His work has been widely performed, broadcast, anthologized and published nationally and internationally, and has been commissioned by the CBC. His debut adult novel, Yiddish for Pirates, is a national bestseller and a finalist for the 2016 Governor General’s Award for Literature and the prestigious 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

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~Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy


The purpose of life is not to be happy — but to , to be productive, to be useful, to have it make some difference that you have lived at all.


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Yiddish Dictionary - Bubby Gram

Yiddish for Pirates is a rollicking story, a linguistic typhoon, and the most audacious and original novel I’ve read in a long time. Gary Barwin has the imagination of David Mitchell and a galleon full of dictionaries.” Emily Schultz, author of The Blondes

Bubby's Yiddish/Yinglish Glossary

“Delightfully odd. . . . Start by imagining that Leo Rosten (of The Joys of Yiddish) and Terry Pratchett (of approximately 1 million fantasy novels) had a love-child. Then suspend your disbelief’s disbelief. . . . Barwin engages with the little-known history of Jewish pirates with verve and humor.” – Leah Falk, Jewniverse

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According to Rosten, there are other linguistic devices in English, derived from Yiddish syntax, which subtly "convey nuances of affection, compassion, displeasure, emphasis, disbelief, skepticism, ridicule, sarcasm, and scorn."

The Dance of Death, by Francis Douce—A Project …

Inflection, too, is an important aspect to Yiddish. This from Leo Rosten's wonderful book "The Joys of Yiddish": (The questioner as asking whether he/she should attend a concert being given by a niece. The meaning of the same sentence changes completely, depending on where the speaker places the emphasis:)

The Myths by Which We Live - My English World

Yiddish is a wonderful, rich, descriptive, often onomatopoetic language. It has words for nearly every personality type known to humankind. Yiddish offers more ways of identifying various kinds of "idiots" (with all their subtle variations) than Eskimos have for different kinds of snow. It has a bountiful tradition of literature, film, theater and poetry, which reflect the collective Jewish experience in Europe, over centuries.