VSL:BOOKS // Thou shalt listen to these records

These days, Jewish Americans tend to direct their nostalgia toward the shtetls of Eastern Europe: Wistful memoirs of return to the Old World abound, and the mid-century era of leisure-suit Jewish Americana is nearly forgotten. Now, just in time for Hanukkah stockings, the book And You Shall Know Us by the Trail of Our Vinyl brings that avocado-colored, shag-carpeted world back to life, in all its garish glory.

The book — a collection of hideously dated and hilarious Yiddish album covers from the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s — might have been an exercise in condescending irony. But Roger Bennett (who also wrote the very kitsch Bar Mitzvah Disco) genuinely cares about these LPs: When Al Tijuana and His Jewish Brass come on the stereo, he hears a story of assimilation and pride that is — if not in good taste — at least genuinely touching. After all, these are historical records.

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