Books

A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN by Betty Smith

A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN delineates the life of a young girl between the ages of 11 and 17, who grew up in an impoverished family in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn NY 100 years ago.

Although much has changed since then, the genius of this book is that it is so relatable. Most everyone can remember what it was like to be 9, 10 or 11 years old, an age when we had begun to sit up and take notice of things, but were too inexperienced to completely understand what it was that adults discussed, especially when they lowered their voices.

Francie Nolan is a bright young woman who loves to read, but is denied an excellent education mostly because of her poor circumstances. Her family lives from paycheck to paycheck, so when she talks herself into a reading position that pays way more than the meager wages her mother is able to scramble together with the washing she does for the neighborhood, Francie leaves school to help.

But what is so marvelous about this volume is the determination of the women. Francie may have missed high school, but she sees no reason why she shouldn’t go to college. Perhaps she gets her determination from her mother, who works long, hard hours for her family, piecing together various jobs as they come along.

If you want something that is both old and new, read this book. It gives a vivid account of immigrant life in the United States, showing that in many ways things have not changed that much. Five stars.