As the summer holidays come to an end and in time for the start of school, our book club chose a book that could be assigned in high school English. The books is a coming of age story, sharing the trials and hope of young Francie, who is growing up poor in Brooklyn. The story tells the tales of three generations of family who have come to America.
Set in the early 1900’s, Francie is growing up with her alcoholic father and practical mother who supports the family through hard work. Her dad is pleasant, handsome and sings but can’t keep a job. Like the rest of his brothers, he dies young as a result of alcoholism. Her mother, Katie, comes from a strong line of women and understands that the key to getting out of poverty is to ensure that her children gain and education.
“The secret lies in the reading and writing. You are able to read. Every day you must read one page from some good book to your child. Every day this must be until the child learns to read. Then she must read every day, I know this is the secret.”
Francie loved to read and write and when she was lonely, books would keep her company and help her to see things beyond her neighbourhood. She loved school and worked balancing school and a job. Her family was poor and faced struggles but they were rich in support for each other and hope for a better life – the American dream. This was an easy and enjoyable read as an adult but I am not sure that teens would relate to the struggle to survive.
“Everything struggles to live. Look at that tree growing up there out of that grating. It gets no sun, and water only when it rains. It’s growing out of sour earth. And it’s strong because its hard struggle to live is making it strong. My children will be strong that way.”