Memories of Clason Point

Memories of Clason Point

by Kelly Sonnenfeld

An engaging memoir of growing up as a bootleggeræs daughter in the Bronx Here is an unusually evocative picture of family life during the Depression that transports the reader back through time with sensual imagery, dialogue, and minutely descriptive detail. Kelly SonnenfeldÆs extraordinary recall has allowed her to re-create the lively scenes, pastimes, and… See more details below

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An engaging memoir of growing up as a bootleggeræs daughter in the Bronx Here is an unusually evocative picture of family life during the Depression that transports the reader back through time with sensual imagery, dialogue, and minutely descriptive detail. Kelly SonnenfeldÆs extraordinary recall has allowed her to re-create the lively scenes, pastimes, and characters of her own childhood, all centered on one block in the famous multi-ethnic Bronx neighborhood of Clason Point. From the Hooverville camps of squatters, homeless, and unemployed to an endless succession of boarders and stray dogs, a caravan of unforgettable faces and personalities travels through young KellyÆs life. But most memorable of all are the looming figures of her own people: her regally proud maternal grandmother, who will buy her grandchildren fancy, starched dresses before putting food on their table; her anxious but granite-willed mother; her endearingly optimistic father, whose adventures in bootlegging bring the family close to peril on several occasions and eventually propel him from the pocket of an influential judge to prison on Rikers Island. For fans of Depression Era and gangster lore, for readers of any age who love losing themselves in another time and place, this memoir is a remarkable journey to one of the most colorful destinations in American history.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Mary Sue Preissner
The journey to Clason Point can be both a pleasant one and a real eye-opener. In this 1928 community, Jewish, Protestant, and Italian Catholics work, socialize, and mingle. Told through the eyes of a bootlegger's young daughter, the community and its inhabitants struggle to survive in the difficult years that follow, a result of the Great Depression. Kelly learns much about life through her family's struggles to stay afloat, including the need for dreams in times of hardship, and that there is no definitive answer to what is right and wrong. This tale will elicit a range of emotions.
VOYA - Kellie Shoemaker
In 1928, Kelly Sonnenfield was living with her family at Clason Point, an ethnically mixed neighborhood in the Bronx where native New Yorkers and recent immigrants alike pursued the American dream. When the Depression hit one year later, however, everything changed. Kelly watched her neighbors move away-sometimes without saying goodbye-when the bank foreclosed on their homes. But Kelly's father had managed to keep their house by doing what many were doing during Prohibition: making liquor illegally in a basement still. This activity brought unsavory characters to their house, caused much friction between her parents, and brought Kelly to a realization that sometimes good people do bad things in order to survive. Although this book is classified as fiction, it actually works much better as a biography. Sonnenfield has a remarkable memory for details that makes this period of history come alive, but it falls flat in plot development. Since we are told in the opening chapter that her father is jailed for bootlegging liquor, there is no drama in the telling, which makes most of the book anticlimactic and downright hard to finish. The prose is choppy and distracting, the language unimaginative, and the characters not portrayed with any depth. While those interested in this time period might appreciate this personal account, steer readers who like a good story to Far From Home by Ouida Sebestyen (Delacorte, 1980), Dancing Madness by Mildred Ames (Laurel, 1980), or, more recently, Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse (Scholastic, 1997/VOYA April 1998). VOYA Codes: 2Q 2P J S (Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q, For the YA with a special interest in the subject, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
School Library Journal
Gr 7 UpSeen through a mist of time, tears, and love during her father's funeral, Sonnenfeld remembers the good, the bad, and the downright funny that took place in her ethnically mixed Bronx neighborhood during the Depression. The bright daughter of a deaf mother and a risk-taking, but erudite father, she finds herself in the role of her father's confidant and her mother's protector. Having escaped the persecution directed toward Jews in Hungary and sundry dismal medical diagnoses, Mr. Kellerman is optimistic and caring. Determined to feed and house lost animals, homeless men, singularly ungracious relatives, as well as his own family, he turns to distilling whiskey in his basement when hard times arrive. After the police come to make arrests, they become sympathetic friends and the judge becomes a new customer. When their home is foreclosed, Mr. Kellerman "borrows" another house from the bank, utilizes the city marshal as a mover, and, in a running battle of wits, "liberates" some gas and electricity. Eventually, however, there is a heavy price to pay, and Kelly learns that it is her fragile mother who holds the family together. Sonnenfeld's characters are enticing. With an entertaining and unerring eye for authentic detail, the author colors the period to re-create an animated reality. Pair this poignant urban autobiography with a piece of rural fiction such as Zilpha Keatley Snyder's Cat Running (Delacorte, 1994) or Kathleen Karr's The Cave (Farrar, 1994) for an interesting class project.Cindy Darling Codell, Clark Middle School, Winchester, KY
Kirkus Reviews
A retired teacher remembers her parents, particularly her father, in this memoir of a Depression-era Bronx childhood. Recalling incidents great and small in sharp detail, from her tenth birthday party to births and deaths, as well as the growth of her Jewish identity, the author takes readers on a tour past shops and houses, neighbors and relatives, returning repeatedly to two themes: the Depression's debilitating effect on the pride of men who could no longer support their families, and the contrast between her father, a dreamer, and her mother, a worrier. As her father was a small-time bootlegger, her mother had reason to worry, but not all her hand-wringingnor two police raidskept him down for long. Sonnenfeld is fond of generalizations, frequently falls into passive voice, and breaks the boundaries of childhood with adult, often sentimental, observations. Her story doesn't read like a novel, but as a coherent reminiscence, with a varied, colorful cast of characters and a compelling sense of what it was like to live in those now-distant hard times. (Memoir. 11-13)

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Product Details

Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
5.78(w) x 8.62(h) x 0.73(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

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