Auch, Mary Jane. Ashes of Roses.
To quote from the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, March 2002: This begins as a rather standard coming-to-America story, featuring the Atlantic crossing, the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island--all new, of course, to YA readers who don't know this tale, which was the experience of millions of immigrants to America. Rose is a teenager coming from Ireland in 1911 with her mother, father, younger sisters and baby brother. The baby brother doesn't pass the physical exam at Ellis Island and abruptly, the father decides to take him back to Ireland, leaving the mother and other children to stay in New York with his brother. This doesn't work out very well, in fact disastrously, so the mother leaves Rose and the next oldest daughter behind and returns to Ireland to be reunited with her husband and baby. Rose and her 12-year-old sister Maureen are left to fend for themselves on the streets of New York City. They find beds in the garment district at the home of a Jewish man and his teenage daughter. Soon Rose gets a job with this young woman (named Gussie) at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in lower Manhattan and Maureen starts school. Gussie is a union organizer and tries to interest Rose in the struggle. Rose is more interested in meeting other girls and having fun spending her new wages.
The working conditions are well described. The climax of the story, however, is based on the historical event of the Triangle fire in March 1911, a catastrophe that in a way makes us think now of the more horrific event of 9/11: corpses lined up to be identified by grieving friends and relatives, emergency crews doing their best. In fact, the author says, "This book is dedicated to the heroes of September 11--both those who were lost and those who fought to save them--and to the indestructible spirit of the people of New York."
Rose grows from a provincial girl to a young woman determined to fight for the rights of workers, to be a witness to the terrible working conditions that caused the deaths of so many of her co-workers at the Triangle factory. As such, this book works well as a complement to any studies of immigrants, living and working conditions at the first part of the 20th century in New York City, or the history of organized labor. (An ALA Best Book for YAs.) Claire Rosser, KLIATT
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|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||May 1, 2004|
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