Cover image for Polish-American folklore
Polish-American folklore
Silverman, Deborah Anders, 1954-
Publication Information:
Urbana : University of Illinois Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xii, 236 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
Life in the old country and the mass migration to America -- "The old neighborhood isn't the same any more" : the evolution of Polish-American ethnicity -- Polish-American Easter celebrations -- The Christmas cycle and minor holidays -- Rites of passage : births and deaths in Polish-American communities -- Faith, love, and community : the Wesele (Wedding) in Polonia -- Spinning tales, weaving the fabric of identity : Polish-American narratives -- "Guardian angel, stay by my side": folk religion in polonia -- The garden of healing : Polish-American folk medicine -- Polish folk songs : seeds of a new musical style -- An American original : the polka -- Reinventing the reel : Polish folk dances in Polonia -- Games people play : folk arts, crafts and recreation -- Pierogi, kielbasa, and other symbols of ethnicity : Polish- American foodways -- Anchors and passports to polishness : public folklore in Polonia.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GR111.P65 S55 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Grosvenor Room-Buffalo Collection Non-Circ

On Order



Integrating vivid photographs, firsthand observations, and interviews against a rich backdrop of ethnic practices and traditions, Deborah Anders Silverman explores how Polish Americans are creatively adapting the rural peasant folklore of the old country to life in multicultural, urban America. Silverman surveys rituals of courtship, marriage, coming of age, and funerals, also noting those customs that have been rediscovered after falling into disuse. She follows the trail of folk stories and delves into folk music and dance, particularly the polka, providing a detailed discussion of texts, contexts, and performance practices. She also describes birthing practices, home remedies, superstitions, folk blessings, and miracle cures. In addition, she offers a wealth of information on foodways and on the origins and celebration of holy days, from Christmas Eve vigils to the Dyngus Day festivals of the Easter season. Polish-American Folklore reveals a community that preserves distinctive traditions even though geographically dispersed in a new homeland. Polish Americans retain ties to their ethnicity though ethnic media, social clubs, churches, group events, and the Internet. This "Polonia without walls" is united by a resilient, dynamic, family-oriented culture that attracts not only Polish immigrants and their descendants but also newcomers from other ethnic and racial groups. By including first-person commentary from a wide range of Polish American individuals and families, from first-generation immigrants to non-Polish in-laws who embrace Polish foods, music, and traditions, Silverman brings to life a thriving ethnic subculture that values equally its Polish roots and its American harvest.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Silverman has filled a gap in the folklorist's and cultural anthropologist's bookshelf with this volume on the folklore of Polonia, the macro society of Polish immigrants and their descendants in the US. No other book has documented Polish American folklore as thoroughly as this does. Silverman provides excellent historical, social, and cultural contexts in her presentation of many expressions of Polish American culture, such as Easter and Christmas celebrations, rites of passage, religious traditions, folk medicine, folk song, folk dance (with a special chapter devoted to the polka), folk games, folk arts and crafts, and foodways. She bases her scholarship on extensive first-person interviews (1970s-'90s) with members of the community (drawing mostly from New York) and from primary and secondary library research. She incorporates abundant folkloristic and ethnic theory into her presentation, although some academics might wish for deeper explanations from her examples. She does a superb job of incorporating parallel examples from relevant studies of other ethnic groups. A volume in the well-respected "Folklore and Society Series," it is recommended for general and academic readers at all levels. J. B. Wolford; University of Missouri--St. Louis