(Short Stories for Students)

In ‘‘America and I,’’ Yezierska recalls her experiences finding work that expresses her creativity and thus the America of her dreams. She comes to the United States with hopes of building a new life, the kind of life that she and her ancestors were unable to achieve in Russia. She believes that in America, freed from the need to work constantly just to survive, she will have time to voice her creative self-expression.

She soon discovers she is mistaken. Unable to speak English and with no job skills or training, she is forced to work as a maid for an Americanized Russian family. Although they will not tell her how much she will be paid, she works hard for the family, grateful to have the chance to live with Americans and start to learn English. She also looks forward to receiving her first month’s wages so she can buy new clothes and look like an American herself. The family, however, makes no move to pay her. When Yezierska asks them for her wages, they tell her that she should be paying them for the opportunities they are giving her; without knowing English, she is worthless. Yezierska leaves the family immediately, without a penny and having lost her trust for any Americanized immigrants.

Yezierska returns to the Lower East Side, where the Jewish immigrants live. She gets a job at a sweatshop sewing on buttons. She only makes enough money to live in a room that she shares with a dozen other immigrants. She is always hungry, but she likes this job better than working for the family because she has her evenings to...

(The entire section is 634 words.)