Fans of Mary Karr's groundbreaking memoir The Liars' Club will relish the similarly funny, tough-minded tone of Helene Stapinski's recollections centering on her family's petty criminal history in the sordid precincts of Jersey City. But Stapinski is nobody's clone; her autobiography has a tart, distinctively urban Northeast flavor that will ring a bell with anyone familiar with America's aging, deteriorating cities. You can practically smell the soap suds from the local Colgate factory and the stink of the bone-rendering plant in nearby Newark; people didn't settle in Jersey City, writes Stapinski, "they settled for Jersey City ... they settled for less." She was 5 years old in 1970 when her Italian American grandfather was arrested for threatening to shoot her whole family, capping a long career that included armed robbery and beating his children. The Polish American relatives on her father's side included a bookie and an epileptic prone to fits of rage who nearly killed a sibling by breaking his back. None of this was a big deal in Jersey City, notes Stapinski, who deftly interweaves her family's story with the rancid saga of Hudson County's corrupt political machine. She fled to college in Manhattan and a career in journalism without ever really escaping the ties of blood and loyalty; her frank rendering of her mixed feelings as Jersey City was slowly upscaled reminds us what is gained and lost through gentrification. Stapinski's salty, savory account conveys the gritty, enduring legacy of Jersey City: "so tough, I was always prepared for what might come my way." --Wendy Smith --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"The night my grandfather tried to kill us, I was five years old, the age I stopped believing in Santa Claus, started kindergarten, and made real rather than imaginary friends." This chatty and often engaging memoir of growing up among a rogue's gallery of tough characters may leave readers thinking Stapinski might have been better off with an imaginary family. Reminiscent of Michael Patrick McDonald's highly praised All Souls: A Family Story from Southie, but without that book's overwhelming moral force, this is the sad, often funny story of Stapinski's extended family of grifters, con men and women and petty crooks. At its best, it's a vivid portrait of working-class life in Jersey City, N.J. But too often it veers uneasily between disarming anecdotes (Stapinski's grandfather steals books from the public library where he works as a security guard) and terrifying details of lives out of control (her father almost loses his legs because of untreated but obvious diabetes), and doesn't sustain dramatic intensity. Stapinski, who has written for the New York Times and New York magazine, can be funnyAas in her descriptions of attending New York University, where she meets Jews, punks and lesbians, and reads the Village VoiceAand even illuminating, as when she describes the Machiavellian, if mundane, workings of the multitude of patronage systems that have corrupted Jersey City politics. Though she has a good eye for the details of family and community life, too often the emotions in this memoir feel imagined, not real. (Mar.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
I just moved to Jersey City, Newport area, right on the waterfront. This part of JC has become upscale and the living is easy. Read morePublished 2 months ago by annejv
Five-finger Discount is a history of her unusual family, and also serves as a vivid history of Jersey City politics and culture. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Susan Goulding
written with a lot of humor and allowed me to travel in a time warp back to the earlier days of Jersey City. There is so much history in our home town of Jersey City. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Joan Terrell
I'm on page 50 and I came here to read other reviews to inspire me to push through. Probably not going to happen, but I might try. Tomorrow. Read morePublished 11 months ago by lv2tumble13
Insightful book in many ways as well as a true history of a time and place that is already becoming smothered in the pages of history. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Charles J Caes
Interesting stories of crime and life growing up in jersey city. A little preachy at times, especially the ending. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Roberta A. Mercier
I could not put this book down. I am from Jersey City and it was so interesting to read about what went on here on the streets I am familiar with. I highly recommend this book.Published 19 months ago by Steph