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Black Tuesday Paperback – September 13, 2011
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About the Author
After over a decade working at top Wall Street firms, Nomi left a lucrative career in disgust to pen three nonfiction whistle-blower books: It Takes a Pillage, Other People’s Money, and Jacked, exposing the shady deals and cozy relationships from Wall Street to Washington. Her thriller, The Trail, was set in the corrupt banking world, and written under a pseudonym. Her prescient work has appeared in The New York Times, The Nation, Daily Beast, The Daily News, Alternet, Fortune, Newsday, Mother Jones, and many other publications. She has been featured in several international documentaries, and is a frequent commentator for PBS, MSNBC, CNBC, C-SPAN, CNN, BBC, Fox, and other stations.
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Her Wall Street education unfolds through the twists and turns and trials of her emigrant life and love affairs. Her thoughts, questions and conclusions were such that I felt as if I was right there with her. "The power of Wall Street is no less than the Cossacks." And even though I have little in common with an emigrant Russian woman in 1929 her experience was so familiar I found myself agreeing with her often. Background explanations such as the conservative Wall Street Journal and politicians soothing the public before the crash with ideas that everything was fine and that our country was back on track and that blaming the great banker was just "sour grapes" read like a Déjà vu experience as did the progressive newspaper talking of a depression that was the result of bankers lying and stealing from the public. To top it off, this captivating story ends in a way that I didn't expect. Now if we only had a modern day Leila. But in 2011 we'd need ten Leila's. Black Tuesday is a great read that does double duty as an entertaining historical novel and a modern day wake-up call to our current Wall Street environment.
I just finished reading New York (by Rutherfurd) which I really enjoyed and I was looking for a good book like that one. Then, I found out about Black Tuesday listening to the interview Ms. Prins gave to Brian Lehrer from WNYC and decided to read it.
Congratulations to Ms. Prins, i is a very good book.
Leila is such a great character in all aspects - her thoughts about her new country, trying to grow, learn and help her family and, of course, her love dilemmas in a historical scenario perfectly presented by the author.
Go ahead, read the book, you will enjoy it.
The protagonist, Leila Kahn, a young Russian immigrant fresh from post-revolutionary pogroms, serves coffee and new-fangled things called hamburgers in Moishe's cramped Wall Street diner that stinks of beef; her customers are fractious Wall Street types whose wandering hands she cannot avoid as she edges between the tables, her own hands busy with cups and plates.
She shares a crowded Lower East Side tenement with an ailing aunt and other relatives, where sleeping is only possible in shifts, and where a washroom with leaky pipes, icy water and cracked tiles is shared with two other apartments.
Ironically, Leila is attracted to one particular banker who visits the diner every day; and turns away from her boyfriend, the firebrand Nelson, who dreams of the day when the poor will rise up and over-run Wall Street.
Tense scenes play out in the plush apartment of the conscience-stricken banker who becomes illicitly involved with Leila. There are riots outside the bank and more direct violence on a lonely, late-night Manhattan street. There is a harrowing scene in an abortion clinic, and some dramatic court scenes.
Personal conflict bursts on every page. Moral decisions are threaded through the narrative of this drama that resembles in many ways what is happening today: a villainous bank peopled by ruthless characters prepared to stop at nothing to hide fraud.
The lay reader gets a good rundown on the financial basics as Leila the newbie asks questions and gets answers.
And then Leila gets to learn things she should not know, and is confronted with making decisions against a threatening backdrop of violence and death.
Her search for solid evidence of fraud takes an unexpected turn when she gets a surprise visitor--the banker's aloof wife, who makes a frantic late night trip to the Lower East Side, leaving her chauffeur-driven red Rolls Royce parked outside the Orchard Street tenement.
Leila is an attentive listener and a quick learner: "Well, thank you, Roderick, that's comforting. But I'll tell you something, I was listening to you all these months, and I know you and the Morgan bank---hell, probably all the big banks---have been boosting up this market, gathering up ordinary people to keep it going, and lying about everything."
And there are some memorable lines---this from Leila's ailing Tanta Rosa, stricken with multiple sclerosis who lives with her in the tenement: "'Sometimes you don't find your cause, Leila," said her aunt with a little smile. "Your cause finds you. There is a fight buried in all of us.'"
Nomi Prins keeps the pages turning, as one thing leads to another. And if the dialogue tends to be wooden, and some of the passages could do with tightening, it is a small price to pay for a great read.
As a non-fiction writer, Nomi has made the transition to fiction, which is some accomplishment. Most non-fictioneers just don't make it.