A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.
HarperCollins Publishers: NY, 1947.
Originally by Harper & Brothers: NY, 1943.

In extremely detailed diary form, Smith describes the life and growth of a girl and her family struggling to get by in pre-World War I Brooklyn, NY. Drawing from her own childhood experiences, Smith creates a strikingly realistic and universal picture of those in poverty, not just this immigrant neighborhood, although there are obviously some historic and geographic specifics. Sixty-plus years later it still rings true.

I personally identify with Francie more than I care to be reminded. With twelve children and an absent father, my family struggled-although we never called ourselves poor, and we lived in a middle class suburb. As with Francie, we learned valuable lessons that others of our generation(s) have not. Our society is too caught up with material things. We learned to distinguish between necessities and extras and to be amazed, joyful, awestruck by simple things now commonplace. There is a strong sense of Francie's picking out the important moments and realizations and holding them close to sustain herself. Maybe this is what life truly should be about for all of us.

For a while now I have been trying to find classics to recommend. This is my first time reading A Tree in Brooklyn, and I found it to be one of the best classics I've read. There is a good balance between intellect and readability. The detail takes some getting used to, but it's worth sticking with it until you're hooked.

related-Brooklyn, New York, early 1900s, 20th century, immigrants, rise from poverty, coming of age, relationships, education, determination, writers, authors, occupations, jobs, girls, alcoholism

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