Jeff Kisseloff brings together 137 New Yorkers who witnessed daily life in Manhattan from the 1890s to World War II. Dividing the city into ten neighborhoods and devoting a chapter and about a dozen voices to each, Kisseloff offers a brief historical introduction, then lets the eyewitnesses speak for themselves. We hear a survivor's account of the harrowing Triangle Shirtwaist fire as well as tales of the sweatshops, the settlement houses, and the immigrants from around the world who poured into the Lower East Side at the turn of the century. There are vignettes of John Reed, Louise Bryant, Eugene O'Neill, and Edna St. Vincent Millay. We read of the bloody beginnings of the seamen's union and, down the street from the docks, visit with Thomas Wolfe and Edgar Lee Masters in the Hotel Chelsea. In Harlem, the Savoy and the Cotton Club were in their heyday, as were Fats Waller, Billie Holiday, and Adam Clayton Powell. Throughout the book, Kisseloff engages us in a unique conversation between an all-but-bygone time and our own.
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Illustrated with dozens of photos.
“A can't-put-it-down oral history.”
—David Gates, NEWSWEEK
“Jeff Kisseloff...has done his work splendidly, listening to scores of old Manhattanites recalling their city through the foggy mists of intervening years... What a wonderful warehouse of memory this volume is! ...Indispensable... It is not only highly informative, but it is also great fun to read.”
—THE NEW YORK TIMES
“The lusty, sad, starting, funny, bawdy—even cruel—stories are so immediate one becomes convinced anew that New York is, as the song has it, a wonderful town.”
“The speakers are a diverse lot; many have lived through interesting events. The accounts are vivid and down to earth. We catch the distinct flavor of neighborhoods as they were.”