Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sima's Undergarments for Women by Ilana Stanger-Ross

Any woman with experience with a independent lingerie store will find something special in this book. Stanger-Ross clearly understands Jewish women in their natural habitats. I was personally excited to get more of a window into Brooklyn, and Boro Park, as I have filled a series of journal pages writing about the young Hasidic mothers of Williamsburg.

In some ways this book is heart-breaking. One wants to strangle Sima, who seems to have lived her life, specializing in being unhappy, feeling annoyed by her oafish husband and forever altered due to one poor decision. But its easy to imagine that women like Sima do exist. Her loneliness and her longing are incredibly believable. Sima, has worked for 35 years fitting the women of the neighborhood with bras and underwear. She watches as the young women get married, fits them for their wedding night lingerie, and then a year or two later fits them for nursing bras. She listens as young mothers, nearing 30, complain of the exhaustion caused from having three children. Sima herself expected children to follow quickly after her marriage. But through slivers of flashbacks we discover that Sima is barren, due to a secret she has kept from her husband.

An interaction with a young Israeli woman who she hires to be a seamstress changes Sima. One review talked about the fact that the reader waits for a bigger change than actually occurs. While I too longed for more of a climax at one point, I think the subtle changes that occur in Sima are very realistic.

A couple days after finishing this book I was running through my parent's neighborhood and I noticed an old woman walking - I couldn't help but think about Sima. Recently, I've been very interested in how people deal with the choices they make as young people. In many ways this book shows that we are forever overcoming the traumas of our adolescence.


  1. i liked this book a lot. i, too, thought it was very realistic--went out and bought a copy for my mother. she loved it.

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