Thursday, November 19, 2015

Book Review: Audacity, by Melanie Crowder @MelanieACrowder

Audacity, by Melanie Crowder book cover and review
I've been on an immigration kick lately. Not that I meant to, but I just happened to grab three books about immigrants and they have all been excellent. Audacity is about Jewish immigrants from Russia at the turn of the century and it is based on a true story. (Girl in Translation and Orphan Train are the other two books in case you're interested.)

Clara comes from a very traditional Jewish family, so when they arrive in New York she and her mother must find work. Her father and brothers are to spend their time studying God's word.  I had a hard time not throwing the book across the room. Her mother is taking in piecework and Clara is working in a sweatshop barely making anything. And the males in the family go to the temple and study all day.  I'm all for faith, but how can one justify this in the name of any religion?

Anyway, Clara can't deal with the working conditions and starts looking into unionizing. The men are beginning to become organized, but they see no need to include women. So not only does Clara have to fight the women to get them to join, but she has to fight the men to include them.  She spends many days picketing, loses her job, and is beaten more than once. Ultimately her efforts lead to a massive 20,000 worker uprising.

She's an inspiration. One that most people have probably never heard of. This is a story worth hearing, and it's quick. Audacity is written in verse and is easy to follow. I wasn't blown away by the format, but it also didn't hinder me. The Historical Note at the end and the interviews with Clara's family add much to the story.

Audacity would be a great classroom read that would provide a lot of food for discussion.  The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire occurs shortly after this and might be an option for further study. Yet another historical fiction that I need to push to my teens. I think they will like Audacity, if I can convince them to try it.

Published by Philomel, January 8, 2015
Copy obtained from the library
388 pages

Rating: 4/5

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  1. Interesting that the format is in verse. I don't think I encounter it very often in historical fiction. I'll be sure to keep this in mind for students who are interested in reading about early U.S. History.

  2. I think the poetry is very good, much better than the usual books written in verse. I was really high on this book when I read it this summer and so we included it on our Mock Printz list. Students are positively reviewing it. I wish more of them would read historical fiction, however.

  3. Melanie Crowder's novel is an achingly beautiful and unforgettable tale about one girl who had the audacity to stand up for herself and demand equal rights. A girl who dared to dream, who didn't let the world stomp her into the ground. I can't tell you how much I loved this book, but I really hope you'll make space on your shelves and reading lists for it - you won't regret.

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