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Mary Antin

  • The past was only my cradle, and now it cannot hold me, because I am grown too big.

  • I want now to be of today. It is painful to be conscious of two worlds. The Wandering Jew in me seeks forgetfulness.

  • It is not that I belong to the past, but that the past belongs to me.

  • A long past vividly remembered is like a heavy garment that clings to your limbs when you would run.

  • Such creatures of accident are we, liable to a thousand deaths before we are born. But once we are here, we may create our own world, if we choose.

  • It is only that my illusion is more real to me than reality. And so do we often build our world on an error, and cry out that the universe is falling to pieces, if any one but lift a finger to replace the error by truth.

  • We are not born all at once, but by bits. The body first, and the spirit later; and the birth and growth of the spirit, in those who are attentive to their own inner life, are slow and exceedingly painful. Our mothers are racked with the pains of our physical birth; we ourselves suffer the longer pains of our spiritual growth.

  • There is never a Jewish community without its scholars, but where Jews may not be both intellectuals and Jews, they prefer to remain Jews.

  • A characteristic thing about the aspiring immigrant is the fact that he is not content to progress alone. Solitary success is imperfect success in his eyes. He must take his family with him as he rises.

  • So at last I was going to America! Really, really going, at last! The boundaries burst. The arch of heaven soared. A million suns shone out for every star. The winds rushed in from outer space, roaring in my ears, 'America! America!'

  • What we get in steerage is not the refuse, but the sinew and bone of all the nations.

  • I have so little mastered the art of tranquil living that wherever I go I trail storm clouds of drama around me.

    • Mary Antin,
    • letter to Caroline Goodyear ()
  • [I began to unload] the pyramid of honors, civic and literary, which had been heaped on me by the headlong process of rewarding a popular success. One day, I sat down and wrote a wholesale lot of letters of resignation. When I finished, I didn't belong to a single authors club or patriotic society. I was myself again, whatever that was.

    • Mary Antin,
    • in Stanley J. Kunitz, ed., Twentieth Century Authors ()

Mary Antin, Russian-born U.S. writer

(1881 - 1949)