The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street: A Novel

The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street: A Novel

4.3 22
by Susan Jane Gilman
     
 

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In 1913, little Malka Treynovsky flees Russia with her family. Bedazzled by tales of gold and movie stardom, she tricks them into buying tickets for America. Yet no sooner do they land on the squalid Lower East Side of Manhattan, than Malka is crippled and abandoned in the street.

Taken in by a tough-loving Italian ices peddler, she manages to survive through…  See more details below

Overview

In 1913, little Malka Treynovsky flees Russia with her family. Bedazzled by tales of gold and movie stardom, she tricks them into buying tickets for America. Yet no sooner do they land on the squalid Lower East Side of Manhattan, than Malka is crippled and abandoned in the street.

Taken in by a tough-loving Italian ices peddler, she manages to survive through cunning and inventiveness. As she learns the secrets of his trade, she begins to shape her own destiny. She falls in love with a gorgeous, illiterate radical named Albert, and they set off across America in an ice cream truck. Slowly, she transforms herself into Lillian Dunkle, "The Ice Cream Queen" -- doyenne of an empire of ice cream franchises and a celebrated television personality.

Lillian's rise to fame and fortune spans seventy years and is inextricably linked to the course of American history itself, from Prohibition to the disco days of Studio 54. Yet Lillian Dunkle is nothing like the whimsical motherly persona she crafts for herself in the media. Conniving, profane, and irreverent, she is a supremely complex woman who prefers a good stiff drink to an ice cream cone. And when her past begins to catch up with her, everything she has spent her life building is at stake.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
05/01/2014
At the heart of memoirist Gilman's (Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress; Kiss My Tiara) first novel is ice cream entrepreneur Lillian Dunkle, a fascinating character who, like American businesswoman Leona Helmsley, believes that "only the little people pay taxes." At 75, Lillian is bravely facing federal tax evasion charges. The press and the public perceive this as a case of Lillian getting her just desserts, but as the narrative backtracks to her early life, readers learn that Lillian has not always been so rich or felt so entitled. The youngest of four daughters in a poor Russian Jewish family, she is born Malka Treynovsky and touches down on New York City's Lower East Side as a child in the early 20th century. Run over by a horse cart and permanently crippled within three months of her arrival, she is quickly abandoned. When the kindly Italian ices peddler who ran her over takes her in, Malka learns self-reliance. Through grit, wits, and some luck, she builds a prosperous life for herself and her family. VERDICT With its vivid depictions of old New York City tenement life and its tale of the American ice cream business set against the backdrop of the major events of the 20th century, this rags-to-riches saga will appeal greatly to readers of American historical novels. [See Prepub Alert, 12/16/13.]—Sheila M. Riley, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, DC
Publishers Weekly
★ 03/31/2014
Nonfiction writer Gilman (Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven) parlays her craft into an outstanding fiction debut, which follows an abrasive, unscrupulous protagonist from the 1910s to the early 1980s. In 1913, within months of arriving in New York City from her native Russia, young Malka Bialystoker is injured by a horse belonging to street vendor Salvatore Dinello. Deserted by her unstable mother and shiftless father, Malka is taken in by the Dinello clan out of a sense of guilt. Coping with a now-deformed right leg, she sheds her Jewish heritage in favor of her adoptive family’s Italian ethnic identity, complete with a new name: Lillian Maria Dinello. The Dinellos never fully accept her, however, and after she has reached early adulthood, they pointedly exclude her from their fledgling ice cream business. In retaliation she, along with her new husband, Albert Dunkle, begins a rival company. Lillian, a ruthless, hard-drinking businesswoman behind closed doors, in public provides a friendly, wholesome face for the increasingly successful Dunkle’s Famous Ice Cream. Gilman’s numerous strengths are showcased, such as character-driven narrative, a ready sense of wit, and a rich historical canvas, in this case based on the unlikely subject of the 20th-century American ice cream industry. Agent: Irene Skolnick, Irene Skolnick Literary Agency. (June)
From the Publisher
"Big-hearted . . . . [A] smart, darkly comic story, which is perfect for a summer weekend read. . . .Gilman understands the great sweep of the 20th century, from life in a tenement on Orchard Street, to Italian Communists, Joe McCarthy, McDonald's franchises, suburbanization and, of course, the history of ice cream in America. She blends it in a delicious swirl, and adds a topical spin."—Chicago Tribune ("Editor's Choice")"

Entertaining . . . . A rich confection . . . . Although this is Gilman's fiction debut, she knows how to tell a sweeping story...Lillian Dunkle is sometimes sympathetic, sometimes reprehensible, but always fascinating. And that, darlings, is all that matters in telling a good story."—Dallas Morning News"

A tasty summertime treat. . . . A rich literary feast of 31 flavors (and twice that many colors, scents and sounds), Ice Cream Queen is a familiar schmatta-to-silk brocade story of immigrant New York.... Ice Cream Queen is polished yet pointed, deceptively cheery but shaded in the sinister - an upside-down, funhouse treat. In short, the kiddie-cup conclusion? You'll lick it up."—USA Today"

An epic novel about a tough, determined immigrant girl who suffers more than her fair share of licks-but who grows to become the greatest ice cream maker in America."—The Missourian"

Magnificent . . . Distinctive, delicious prose...[A] fascinating ride through history...Gilman is a marvel at researching, and The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street luxuriates in long chapters that gift its readers with pure delight. The fun of history, when writing about it in the context of fiction, is the creativity afforded the author and, clearly, Gilman has plenty of it. So don't wait! Dig in and ask for a big, heaping scoop of The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street. And make sure you have real ice cream handy. You're going to want it. Gilman makes sure of that."—Bookbrowse.com"

A compelling, haunting story of an immigrant. . . . So well written, so rich in detail and such an honest story. . . . Like an ice cream sundae in that it begs to be enjoyed slowly and appreciated for each new taste and texture."—Deseret News"

We all scream [for] Susan Jane Gilman's novel, The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street."—TIME"

Like a glittering mound of ice cream on a sizzling mid-June afternoon, Susan Jane Gilman's fiction debut will be a sweet delight to any summer reading list. In The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street, Gilman wields a playful pen to craft a charming American odyssey staring feisty, irreverent protagonist Malka Treynovsky....A lush cultural history."—Bustle (June 2014 Best Books list)"

Suspenseful and bittersweet. . . Gilman, who has a gift for realistic dialogue, has composed an incredibly engrossing read."—Real Simple"

An outstanding fiction debut. . . . Gilman's numerous strengths are showcased, such as character-driven narrative, a ready sense of wit, and a rich historical canvas."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)"

An ambitious and lavish immigrant rags-to-riches-to-rags first novel rife with humor and moxie."—Booklist"

With its vivid depictions of old New York City tenement life and its tale of the American ice cream business set against the backdrop of the major events of the 20th century, this rags-to-riches saga will appeal greatly to readers of American historical novels."—Library Journal"

THE ICE CREAM QUEEN OF ORCHARD STREET is a wonderful read, by turns poignant and wickedly funny. This is the immigrant story updated, with a brazenly re-imagined American anti-hero, and delicious all along the way."—Kevin Baker, author of The Big Crowd and Paradise Alley"

The daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants, raised by Italians on New York's Lower East Side, Lillian Dunkle is the archetypical American heroine, and THE ICE CREAM QUEEN OF ORCHARD STREET is the story of America itself. Brash, brassy, and larger than life, it is a scintillating romp of a book."—Joshua Henkin, author of The World Without You"

Gilman mixes two of the world's best creations, ice cream and New York City, with brains, irreverence, panoramic historical research, and a huge heart. Set aside a chunk of time when you scoop this wonderful novel up, because you won't be able to put it back down."—Anne Korkeakivi, author of An Unexpected Guest

Kevin Baker
"THE ICE CREAM QUEEN OF ORCHARD STREET is a wonderful read, by turns poignant and wickedly funny. This is the immigrant story updated, with a brazenly re-imagined American anti-hero, and delicious all along the way."
Ellis Avery
"Picture a scrappy young immigrant who amasses fame and fortune through bone-grinding labor, canny speculation, and the gift of gab, only to wind up a paranoid alcoholic mired in the trappings of luxury, in trouble with the Feds for tax fraud. You pictured a man, right? Gotcha! This is the genius of THE ICE CREAM QUEEN OF ORCHARD STREET: in a novel that condenses the innocence, the calculation, the hope, and the delusions of twentieth-century America into one figure, Susan Jane Gilman taps a heroine to do the heavy lifting. The scope is broad, the writing is sumptuous, and Lillian Dunkle née Malka Treynovsky leaves Kane and Gatsby in the dust: she's a full-steam-ahead geyser tapped into the American life force itself."
Charles Baxter
"This shrewd and lively novel tells us about those chasms between public success and private truths that make up so much of American life. The energetic narrator, the ice cream queen, is a confidence-woman, and her darkly comic story about life in the big city and in the media spotlight will give readers chills."

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781455555451
Publisher:
Grand Central Publishing
Publication date:
06/10/2014
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
512
Sales rank:
13,289
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

Susan Jane Gilman is the author of Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dressand Kiss My Tiara. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan, and has written commentary for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and Ms. magazine, among others. Her fiction and essays have received several literary awards. Though she lives in Geneva, Switzerland, she remains, eternally, a child of New York.

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