- Paperback: 330 pages
- Publisher: Sagging Meniscus Press (December 1, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 194469711X
- ISBN-13: 978-1944697112
- Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 8.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #774,860 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Button Thief of East 14th Street: Scenes from a Life on the Lower East Side 1927-1957
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About the Author
Fay Webern was born on the Lower East Side in 1927 to Russian-Jewish immigrant parents and grew up living at the Lavanburg Homes, an experimental utopian housing community for low-income families. A talented child dancer, she studied from the age of seven with a member of Hanya Holm's dance company, but her professional ambitions were dashed by an accident she suffered at the age of fifteen. She later had a long career in publishing, rising to copy chief at Scientific American and then senior editor at Encyclopedia Britannica, Harper and Row, and Random House.
Upon retiring in the late 1990s, she studied non-fiction writing at the Gotham Writers Workshop with essayist Tyler C.~Gore. With his encouragement, she soon became a regular reader at NYC venues such as The Knitting Factory and Arlene's Grocery until she moved to Vermont in 2002, where she still resides.
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Top Customer Reviews
Webern is an incredibly gifted writer -- she's really knows how to tell a story for maximum emotional impact -- with both humor and pathos -- and her deceptively simple writing style turns every vignette into a fairy tale (her style reminds me somewhat of William Saroyan -- simple, but lyric and beautiful). Later in the book, when Fay is a young woman in the post-war era, she's naturally drawn to the arts, abstract expression and modern dance and be-bop jazz -- you realize from the book what an incredible renaissance NYC was going through during those years, when it became the major American cultural center.
There's so much going on in this book that is relevant to our own times. It's the story of an immigrant family, but also at the core, about a mother and daughter (her dad and her other siblings also figure heavily), and as a young girl, Fay is bright but also stubborn and determined, with a strong sense of justice. All the things Americans are still struggling with -- the dignity and rights of women, immigrants, the nature of public services to help the poor, religion -- are all present here, simply as part of the background of the stories.
I can't recommend this book enough -- I think it will appeal to all sorts of readers.