Alte Zachen: Old Things

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A trip through the city turns into a trip down memory lane, as an old Jewish woman and her grandson shop for ingredients for a Friday night meal.


This first graphic novel from Cicada follows 11-year-old Benji and his elderly grandmother, Bubbe Rosa, as they traverse Brooklyn and Manhattan, gathering the ingredients for a Friday night dinner. Bubbe’s relationship with the city is complex – nothing is quite as she remembered it and she feels alienated and angry at the world around her. Benji, on the other hand, looks at the world, and his grandmother, with clear-eyed acceptance.


As they wander the city, we catch glimpses of Bubbe’s childhood in Germany, her young adulthood in 1950s Brooklyn, and her relationships; first with a baker called Gershon, and later with successful Joe, Benji’s grandfather. Gradually we piece together snippets of Bubbe’s life, gaining insight into some of the things that have formed her cantankerous personality.


The journey culminates on the Lower East Side in a moving reunion between Rosa and Gershon, her first love. As the sun sets, Benji and his Bubbe walk home over the Williamsburg Bridge to make dinner.

This is a powerful, affecting, and deceptively simple story of Jewish identity, of generational divides, of the surmountability of difference, and of a restless city and its inhabitants.


Author: Ziggy Hanaor

Illustrations: Ziggy Hanaor