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A 2015 National Jewish Book Award finalist
The inspiring story of Clara Lemlich, whose fight for equal rights led to the largest strike by women in American history
A gorgeously told novel in verse written with intimacy and power, Audacity is inspired by the real-life story of Clara Lemlich, a spirited young woman who emigrated from Russia to New York at the turn of the twentieth century and fought tenaciously for equal rights. Bucking the norms of both her traditional Jewish family and societal conventions, Clara refuses to accept substandard working conditions in the factories on Manhattan's Lower East Side. For years, Clara devotes herself to the labor fight, speaking up for those who suffer in silence. In time, Clara convinces the women in the factories to strike, organize, and unionize, culminating in the famous Uprising of the 20,000.
Powerful, breathtaking, and inspiring, Audacity is the story of a remarkable young woman, whose passion and selfless devotion to her cause changed the world.
About the Author
Melanie Crowder (www.melaniecrowder.net) lives on the Colorado Front Range where she is a writer and educator. She teaches English to non-native-English-speaking students at her local school and holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Follow Melanie on Twitter at @MelanieACrowder.
Read an Excerpt
Over the grey plain of the sea
winds are gathering the storm-clouds
Words float like wayward clouds in the air in my mind.
Now his wing the wave
or was it,
Now the wave his wing caresses
I dip a hand into my apron pocket unfold a square of paper against my palm,
hunch my shoulder,
hide it from view.
Now his wing the wave caresses,
now he rises like an arrow
The poem is ripped from my hand and the air,
where only wayward clouds had been,
is full of shouting,
accusations a hand raised in anger
ready to strike—
the world slows in the second before pain blooms in my jaw;
a second to hope the poem is safe in my mind where fists
and fury cannot shake it free.
Just because I am small boned and short,
brown haired and brown eyed,
just because I look
common as a wren meek as a robin
that does not mean what is inside me is also
common as a wren meek as a robin.
I wish for is strange aberrant even wrong in this place but I know
I cannot be the only one blanketing her bright feathers hooding her sharp eyes hiding in plain sight.
so far has been ordinary simple small
but I cannot shake the feeling that inside this little body something stronger is nesting waiting for a chance to flex her talons snap her wings
taut and glide far away from here.
What People are Saying About This
Praise for AUDACITY:
• "Crowder breathes life into a world long past....Compelling, powerful and unforgettable." Kirkus Reviews, starred review
• "This book stands alone....an impactful addition to any historical fiction collection."School Library Journal, starred review
"Based on the true story of Clara Lemlich, Audacity throbs with the emotions of this exceptional young woman who fought for equal rights and improved labor standards in factories. Melanie Crowder’s verses spit out Clara’s rage, cradle her longing and soar like the birds that are her constant companions."Bookpage
“Crowder’s (Parched) use of free verse in this fictionalization of Russian-Jewish immigrant Clara Lemlich’s life brings a spare poignancy to a familiar history.”Publishers Weekly
“Audacity is an evocative reimagining of a fascinating historical figure who should be remembered for her determination in the face of great odds and powerful opposition—and for her role in changing America. Melanie Crowder’s powerful verse reveals a long-past world, but the combination of hope and outrage that Clara Lemlich brought to her struggle should be both recognizable and inspirational to teen readers longing to right the injustices of our day.”—Margaret Peterson Haddix, critically acclaimed, bestselling author of Uprising
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was a book I randomly grabbed because I was looking for verse novels to read. I’ve enjoyed the form from many different authors, but knew nothing about Audacity or Crowder’s work. Having now read the book, I’m glad I picked this one up. I hadn’t heard of Clara Lemlich, the narrator (and historical figure), before but now I feel like I have a good idea of who she was. While this was a fictional representation of a few years in Clara’s life, it felt genuine to me. Crowder did a great job of showing the struggle of being an immigrant in the early part of the twentieth century. She also showed the struggles workers, particularly women, went through just to barely make a living wage, at the time. Along with Clara’s life story being told, this is the story of sweat shop workers, the rise of unions, and women’s rights. These women put up with a lot to earn some money. Crowder doesn’t hold anything back, either. Knowing the details of how the strikes went and the violence they union members had to deal with, it gives me even more respect for those who stood up for their rights. I don’t read many historical novels, but this will be one I highly recommend from now on. With it being a novel in verse, it only adds to my enjoyment and I think the form allowed the story to have more of an impact on my, as well.