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The Brooklyn Experience: The Ultimate Guide to Neighborhoods & Noshes, Culture & the Cutting Edge (Rivergate Regionals Collection) Paperback – April 20, 2016
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After I'm done impressing my kids, I look forward to giving them their own copies of the book - so they can further discover their new 'home town.' Plus - an extra bonus - Freudenheim is an excellent, passionate writer.. so this is a really good read. I feel she offers real insight as to how to spend a day, a week, or lifetime in a that unweildy place called Brooklyn.
Let me offer a specific example, based on Freudenheim’s discussion of a neighbourhood which, for reasons I don’t need to bore you with here, I have a particular affection for – Bedford-Stuyvesant, or Bed-Stuy. Starting with a general discussion and a side panel of “Basics” (with information about navigation, events and accommodation), the Bed-Stuy chapter continues with “Best Bets” – a quirky list of things to do that allow the visitor fully to experience the neighbourhood, followed by a brief history and a section on “Old/New Brooklyn.” (All the chapters devoted to individual neighborhoods follow a similar structure.) This last topic – old and new – runs throughout the book. Indeed, one of its key strengths is the honest recognition that Brooklyn has changed and continues to change almost too rapidly to comprehend and catalogue. The “Brooklyn Voices” insert in the Bed-Stuy chapter has Colvin W. Grannum, President and CEO of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, talking about his neighborhood’s “cultural richness” but also about the double-edged nature of gentrification which, he states, is “all about access to capital” and leads in many cases to displacement of long-term residents. It is these kinds of observations that make Freudenheim’s book more than a guidebook: it’s also a social history, with some Brooklyn anthropology thrown in.
And – it warms this literary critic’s heart to say – there’s also an extensive section on literary Brooklyn: not only the ridiculous number of authors who live there these days, but also the astonishing range of novels set in the borough. As someone who claims to know quite a lot about Brooklyn fictions, I have to admit to purchasing some new and previously unknown titles after reading the list of novels included here. There’s Brooklyn and there is, of course, “Brooklyn,” and Freudenheim recognises that self-representation and self-mythologising, in novels, films and TV shows, are important contributors to Brooklyn’s contemporary identity.
So much more, too. Disquisitions on the famed Brooklyn attitude, stoop-sitting, the rivalry with Manhattan, the all-important things to do with kids, and lots and lots of high-quality pizza.
I want to visit Brooklyn again. Now. And this wittily written, usable and exciting book is the reason why. Don’t buy any other guide to Brooklyn.