Do Trees Grow in Brooklyn?

How long has it been? I cannot count the number of books I've read and should have blogged about, but I've started a new teaching gig, and it's a whole lot of fun.  When I'm not teaching, I'm improving my knowledge of history.

Latest book purchase: a new copy of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which I plan to begin reading tomorrow.  I would like to be my 12 year old self reading it again, and I may get a sense of myself from those days, but then, I may have a wholly different perspective, and the "wow" factor will likely be diminished, but I do think the story is fantastic.

There's nothing quite like explaining New York City and its surrounding areas to a kid when you're a kid.  There's this perception, I guess, that the city has no greenery at all, and that likely stems from having heard the term "concrete jungle" in some form or fashion.  I sincerely doubt that anyone truly thinks that there are no trees in Brooklyn, but the title makes it seems as if a tree is a rarity, and for Francie, maybe it is.

The Tammany Hall years of New York are many - Founded in 1786, from 1854 to 1933 Tammany ruled NY for all but 10 years.  It's an awesome thing, a political machine like that. And of course, it worked because of the times, and because of the immigrants -  and the simple fact that these guys grew New York.  They built the city.  They stole a lot of money doing so, but still.

Johnny Nolan loves Tammany Hall.  They "take care of him" - he's a singing waiter (I had never heard of such a thing when I first read this book, 35 years ago), and he likes to look sharp in his paper collar and his starched shirtfront and shabby tuxedo.  The sad fact is, he is a dreamer, like so many immigrants who came to the United States thinking the streets were really paved with gold. He is also an alcoholic, and Francie and Nealy are fairly matter-of-fact about it.

This is Francie's story, but it is America's story too - we are a nation of immigrants, and we created a country like no other.


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