A tasty, satisfying stew of history, sociology, cultural anthropology and spicy prose.

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97 ORCHARD

AN EDIBLE HISTORY OF FIVE IMMIGRANT FAMILIES IN ONE NEW YORK TENEMENT

The director of the forthcoming Culinary Center at New York City’s Tenement Museum embarks on a cultural and culinary tour of the building at 97 Orchard St., which serves as the museum’s principal display.

Ziegelman (co-author: Foie Gras: A Passion, 1999) offers the stories of five immigrant families who lived in the building sometime between 1863, when it opened, and 1935. The author’s research is both astonishing in its dimensions and enlightening in its presentation. She begins with a German family, then follows with Irish, Jewish (from Prussia, Germany and Lithuania) and Italian families. Each chapter includes some of the recipes fundamental to that family. Readers will learn the procedures for making things like hasenpfeffer (rabbit stew), krupnik (a sweet alcohol), fish hash, oyster patties, stuffed pike, pickles, challah and zucchini frittata. Ziegelman digs out the personal history of each family, but she is most interested in their cultural milieu. She notes the forces—some unfriendly, others welcoming—that greeted the new arrivals, and includes a splendid section on the cuisine offered at Ellis Island. The author also examines how the food of the immigrants altered the eating habits of Americans (yes, there was a time when we disdained Italian food and didn’t know what a bagel was), charts the rise of the delicatessen and describes the advent of Crisco. Scattered throughout are well-placed details that continually brighten the narrative, including a 1920 public-school menu, a portrait of the pushcart culture that thrived for years, the origin of schmaltz (the delectable grease from goose skin or chicken skin) and 1860s restaurant slang (“shipwreck” = scrambled eggs, “one slaughter on the pan” = porterhouse steak).

A tasty, satisfying stew of history, sociology, cultural anthropology and spicy prose.

Pub Date: June 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-128850-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2010

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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