“The Loudest Voice” is the first-person-voice recollection of Shirley Abramowitz, who remembers her childhood as a place where “every window is a mother’s mouth bidding the street shut up” and where her “voice is the loudest.” Shirley is the daughter of Jewish immigrants, a bright and uninhibited child who talks loudly and incessantly and, like her father, fearlessly speaks her mind.
On a cold November morning, Shirley is summoned by the teacher organizing the school’s Christmas play. Knowing that she has a loud and clear voice, he asks her to be his narrator. The Christmas play, and the involvement in it of Jewish children such as Shirley, occasions debate and commentary throughout the Jewish community, where some embrace assimilation into primarily Christian America, while others firmly safeguard the integrity of ethnic and religious identity. In the Abramowitz home, Shirley’s mother disapproves, but her father counters with the argument, “In Palestine the Arabs would be eating you alive. Europe you had pogroms. Argentina is full of Indians. Here you got Christmas.”
Shirley herself is proud of her voice and eager to perform; during the month of rehearsals her excitement focuses her usually dispersed energies, and she becomes the director’s efficient and trusted assistant. The day of the play arrives; Shirley narrates sensitively and admirably, giving an objective and amusing account of her classmates’ earnest...
(The entire section is 537 words.)