by Melanie Crowder
School Library Journal Gr 7 Up-Written in verse, this novel is loosely based on the life of Clara Lemlich Shavelson, the leader of New York shirtwaist strike of 1909. Clara and her family are Jewish Russians who flee the anti-Semitism of turn-of-the-century Russia to find a better life in America. However, Clara still experiences gender and religious oppression in New York. She is unable to gain the education she desires, because she is forced to work in a sweatshop, and she can't rise above her given status as an immigrant worker because foreign women are taught only rudimentary English. But "Inside I am anything/ but fresh off the boat./ I have been ready for this/ possibility/ all my life," Clara declares, and she proves that she has the audacity to do the impossible for a female and a Jew: organizing a woman's union and ultimately having her voice heard. The verse form of the narrative lends lightness to an otherwise bleak topic and moves the story along quickly, while artful formatting of the text creates and sustains mood. This book stands alone in its topic and time frame, with only Michelle Markel's picture book Brave Girl (HarperCollins, 2013) as a nonfiction companion. With historical notes, interviews with Clara's family members, and a glossary of Yiddish terms, Audacity is an impactful addition to any historical fiction collection.-Brittany Staszak, Glencoe Public Library, IL (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Crowder's (Parched) use of free verse in this fictionalization of Russian-Jewish immigrant Clara Lemlich's life brings a spare poignancy to a familiar history: a poor family's flight from Russia following the 1903 pogrom, an arduous journey to Ellis Island, survival in the tenements of New York's Lower East Side, and Clara's grueling work in garment industry sweatshops. The only daughter in a strict Orthodox family, forbidden to learn Russian, read, or write, Clara secretly defies her father's decrees, hungry for education and determined to become a doctor. As she endures horrific working conditions in America, her dream changes, and she becomes a tireless leader of the union movement. Fighting to organize the women workers, she is locked out of jobs, jailed, and beaten: "They do not speak/ but their message is/ painfully/ clear/ slap scratch/ punch pummel/ kick kick spit." In addition to a closing note that provides context and biographical information, an endearing interview with Lemlich's children and grandchildren gives a glimpse into how this stubborn and fiery young woman lived out the balance of her life. Ages 12-up. Agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Book list From the shtetl, through the Russian Empire pogroms and steerage, Clara Lemlich and her family finally arrive in teeming New York City. Crowder's verse novel tells the eastern European immigrant story at the turn of the last century. Here, whether in the Old or New World, the men study Torah and the women work. Clara not only endures her hard labor in abysmal conditions but feels deeply for those women and children suffering around her. After the workday, Clara studies English, always reaching for her destiny. In short order, it is the labor movement that will be her calling and unionizing that will be her vehicle. Crowder develops Clara's education from the mean streets through persuasive verse: I have only been in this country two years but quickly, I learned you have to fight for what you want you have to take what you need. It is Clara who claims that all she has is audacity. Thanks to audacious Clara, this fictional narrative, based on Lemlich's real-life experiences, illuminates the labor-union movement, especially the women's strike known as the Uprising of the 20,000.--Bush, Gail Copyright 2010 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.