A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
I was born in Brooklyn and thought this book would appeal to me simply because of the setting; but the protagonist, Francie, is from a different neighborhood of Brooklyn that I am not familiar, and the story takes place in the early 1900s, whereas I grew up in the 70s. Life was very different for Francie.
|My house in Gerritsen Beach|
Nonetheless, this was an excuse for me to dig up old photographs. Brooklyn was special to me for many years after I moved away but, as I have been living in California since 1982, the emotional connection to my birthplace has faded away. I no longer feel the nostalgia of the place I grew up.
When we did live in Gerritsen Beach, my father took my brother and me all over Brooklyn, especially to Coney Island and Prospect Park, where he grew up. He would often take us fishing in Sheepshead Bay or to one of the largest Brooklyn Public Libraries or the Brooklyn Museum of Art. He showed us the statues and monuments all over the borough, and told us their stories. I learned that there is much history and culture in Brooklyn; and while reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, it transported me back seventy years before I was born, to the place I would later live, and I can imagine all the history that was there before me.
|My dad in Sheepshead Bay|
Since this story takes place in the early 20th century, it was the beginning of technological advancements - an exciting time for the United States; everything seemed possible. America was in the middle of an immigration boom from Europe. Many people settled in New York, and therefore, the reader may experience the different European heritages of Francie's neighborhood. But there was also a time of uncertainty on the eve of World War I.
|Famous landmarks at Coney Island|
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a coming of age story that chronicled Francie's youth, from birth to sixteen. Readers observe her disappointments, her joys, and everything in between. She was faced with adversity, poverty, rejection, disappointment, unfairness, and inequality; there were so many things wrong with her world, but it was the reality of her world. Nonetheless, she persevered because Francie was a tough girl.
|The Wonder Wheel|
What actually appealed to me was Francie's resilience and tenacity, which she inherited from her mother, her aunts, and her grandmother. In addition to the aforementioned obstacles, some of the men in their world were not reliable. I said some. Hence, the women had to be resourceful in order to survive and take care of themselves and their families.
Francie learned early on that education (in part) was key to rise above hardships and obstacles. With each generation, the women in Francie's family bettered themselves: Francie's grandmother could not read; but Francie's mother could, (though she never went to school); and Francie not only could read, but she would soon attend college. Besides the benefits of education, Francie discovered the value of family. When everything else seemed dire, being surrounded by family was encouraging.
|My dad and me in front of the Cyclone|
There was more to the story than Francie. The author wrote about Francie's grandparents, aunts and uncles, and mother and father. She described how Francie's parents grew up, met, and married. I personally think Francie's mother made the error of pursuing Francie's father, chasing him away from his then-girlfriend. But that is a discussion for another day. None of the characters were perfect, and the author showcased the flaws in their personalities and relationships with one another.
|Going over the Brooklyn Bridge, into Manhattan|
|View of the borough of Brooklyn from top of World Trade Center|
You may have wondered what the tree in the title means. There was a tree that grew in Brooklyn that was indestructible and could survive anywhere and under challenging circumstances. Even if it was cut down or covered with cement, another sapling would find its way to sunlight. That was Francie. Nothing could discourage her or snuff out her dreams. She would make it somehow.