Sunday, September 21, 2008

Smith, Betty (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn)

I'm not sure why this book is categorized as "Teen" in my local public library. Yes, it is about a teenager growing up in Brooklyn in the 'teens, but I wouldn't consider it something only young people should read.

Any and all Americans should read it to know more about what it was like to live, as a poor person, in this country in the first part of the previous century. It's not even always being hungry, which is bad enough when you're describing your childhood, but more the trips to the junkman with bottle caps in tow for a few extra cents, the beyond-awful grade school most of the neighborhood children had to attend, and the continual counting of pennies needed to make it through the week. Every week. For years and years and years.

I'm fairly certain that is not the intent of Betty Smith-- she is trying to show us how filled with fascinating characters and pastimes her childhood in the magical land of Brooklyn was. And she does her job well-- her initial description of her position in a newspaper clipping bureau had me completely befuddled as to what and why this would even exist. But by the end of the book, while I was more aware of a culture that is long gone, it left me with the disquieting knowledge that the poverty is not.

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