An engaging memoir of growing up as a bootleggers daughter in the Bronx Here is an unusually evocative picture of family life during the Depression that transports the reader back through time with sensual imagery, dialogue, and minutely descriptive detail. Kelly Sonnenfeld's extraordinary recall has allowed her to re-create the lively scenes, pastimes, and characters of her own childhood, all centered on one block in the famous multi-ethnic Bronx neighborhood of Clason Point. From the Hooverville camps of squatters, homeless, and unemployed to an endless succession of boarders and stray dogs, a caravan of unforgettable faces and personalities travels through young Kelly's life. But most memorable of all are the looming figures of her own people: her regally proud maternal grandmother, who will buy her grandchildren fancy, starched dresses before putting food on their table; her anxious but granite-willed mother; her endearingly optimistic father, whose adventures in bootlegging bring the family close to peril on several occasions and eventually propel him from the pocket of an influential judge to prison on Rikers Island. For fans of Depression Era and gangster lore, for readers of any age who love losing themselves in another time and place, this memoir is a remarkable journey to one of the most colorful destinations in American history.
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Grade 7 Up?Seen through a mist of time, tears, and love during her father's funeral, Sonnenfeld remembers the good, the bad, and the downright funny that took place in her ethnically mixed Bronx neighborhood during the Depression. The bright daughter of a deaf mother and a risk-taking, but erudite father, she finds herself in the role of her father's confidant and her mother's protector. Having escaped the persecution directed toward Jews in Hungary and sundry dismal medical diagnoses, Mr. Kellerman is optimistic and caring. Determined to feed and house lost animals, homeless men, singularly ungracious relatives, as well as his own family, he turns to distilling whiskey in his basement when hard times arrive. After the police come to make arrests, they become sympathetic friends and the judge becomes a new customer. When their home is foreclosed, Mr. Kellerman "borrows" another house from the bank, utilizes the city marshal as a mover, and, in a running battle of wits, "liberates" some gas and electricity. Eventually, however, there is a heavy price to pay, and Kelly learns that it is her fragile mother who holds the family together. Sonnenfeld's characters are enticing. With an entertaining and unerring eye for authentic detail, the author colors the period to re-create an animated reality. Pair this poignant urban autobiography with a piece of rural fiction such as Zilpha Keatley Snyder's Cat Running (Delacorte, 1994) or Kathleen Karr's The Cave (Farrar, 1994) for an interesting class project.?Cindy Darling Codell, Clark Middle School, Winchester, KY
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 6 and up. With candor and deep affection but absolutely no cute nostalgia, Sonnenfeld remembers her Depression-era childhood in a Jewish immigrant family in the Bronx: what harsh times did to her family and neighborhood when men lost their jobs and dignity, Hooverville shantytowns sprang up, and her desperate father started a still in the basement to make bootleg whisky. The storytelling is sometimes disjointed; for example, the dramatic prologue describes how her father was brought in handcuffs from the prison hospital on Rikers Island to attend his mother's funeral, but that all took place 10 years after the main events of the book. The reader keeps waiting for Sonnenfeld to get back to it, and she never does--except for a brief mention in the epilogue. What holds you is the child's experience of the searing family drama, especially the raging quarrels between her loving parents. Her father saw through rose-colored glasses; her mother always feared that the bubble would burst--and it did. The Yiddish idiom is an integral part of the narrative ("enough already"), as is the culture the new immigrants shared with their Italian neighbors ("love of their family, hospitality with abundant food as a necessary ingredient, and the sound of constant yelling as a means of communication"). Adults as well as young readers will relate this to their own family stories of hard times in the Depression and of coming to America. Hazel Rochman
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Book Description Dutton Juvenile, 1998. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110525459618
Book Description Dutton Juvenile. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 0525459618 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.1961138