Tell Me a Story: Stories From a Childhood in Old New York
By: Bea Gold
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Publishing Date: October 2011
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: June 16, 2012
There are thirty-six stories in this book based on the memories of a young girl living in New York City in the 30’s and 40’s. Raised by immigrant parents, the author’s writing and artwork are so beautiful that you can almost feel yourself in the city that never sleeps (some people think that is Las Vegas) but we more mature people know it's New York. I didn’t read this book in one sitting although I could have, but read a few stories at a time to savor them.
Although I was brought up in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut, reading this book I found that these stories apply to all kids growing up in the era before the war started. It is also clear that these tales could create memories in all children of all races and religions and geographic locations.
Let me give you, the readers, a small idea of some of the truly tender moments in this book and also, some that were not so tender but, that’s life. The first: a story called “Naming” where the girl and her mother are talking about when her ancestors came to America. The authorities at the time gave the immigrants new names that coincided with their real names. The next example is a story called “Getting Teddy.” The girl’s Aunt brought her a puppy because she was an only child and her Aunt thought the puppy would be good company for the girl. But her mother objected as the house was so clean that the puppy would dirty it up. Mama let her keep the puppy but she kept a wooden hanger to beat the dog with if it had an accident. The author writes: “She never beat the dog and the dog was always with the girl until she (the dog) died. She was NEVER hit and I was never lonely again.”
As the year’s passed and the Second World War started, we're introduced to a story called “The War at Home.” In this tale, things had to be tightened up so mom got a job while dad worked at the shipyards. There were blackouts, air raid sirens went off in the middle of the night, many things were rationed: coffee, sugar, butter and cigarettes and many of the young men were drafted. The war lasted through the girl’s high school years. The last story I want to tell you about is called “The Old Aunts.” The family had two aunts and uncles that lived in Brighton Beach and the family would visit them frequently. When the aunts and uncles passed on Mama checked through the closets in their homes to get rid of some of the old furniture and kitchen tools. In the closet they found a jar full of dark red liquid and cherries. This was homemade liqueur called “cherry wishniak.” It took a long time to make and had to be kept in a dark place for two years. The girl and her mama had some of the liquid and it made the girl a little sick but, Mama got a little drunk. I wouldn’t mind trying a bit of the cherry wishniak myself!!!
Quill Says: A memory book written and illustrated by a lady who lived in New York City in the 30's and 40's. These small tales will bring back memories of all children who lived in that time regardless of their status in life and the region that they lived in. A real keeper!!!