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Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy Hardcover – February 8, 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, January 17, 2011:
"Published to coincide with the centennial anniversary of the 1911 fire that erupted in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, this powerful chronicle examines the circumstances surrounding the disaster...Marrin's message that protecting human dignity is our shared responsibility is vitally resonant."

Starred Review, Booklist, April 1, 2011:
"Sure to spark discussion, this standout title concludes with source notes and suggested-reading lists that will lead students to further resources for research and debate."

Starred Review, School Library Journal, May 2011:
"The writing is compelling and detailed, and the author effectively manages to bridge the gap between detached expository writing and emotionally charged content...this is a useful and thoughtful addition to any American history collection."

About the Author

ALBERT MARRIN is the author of numerous highly regarded nonfiction books for young readers, including Years of Dust; The Great Adventure: Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of Modern America; and Sitting Bull and His World. His many honors include the Washington Children's Book Guild and Washington Post Non-Fiction Award for an "outstanding lifetime contribution that has enriched the field of children's literature," the James Madison Book Award for lifetime achievement, and the National Endowment for Humanities Medal.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (February 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375868895
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375868894
  • Product Dimensions: 9.7 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,988 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M. Tanenbaum VINE VOICE on March 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Friday, March 25 is the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Fire, one of the worst industrial disasters in American history. Quite a few books for young people have been published on the topic, both historical fiction and non-fiction. The most recent, just released this spring by award-winning non-fiction writer Albert Marrin, brings the tragic events of that spring afternoon to life by setting the fire in a sweeping historical narrative that encompasses not only the events that led up to the fire, but what happened afterwards.

In a moving preface, Marrin sets the stage for the disaster, describing the beautiful spring day as would have been experienced by Frances Perkins, then a 31-year old social worker (later the first female cabinet member under FDR) who witnessed the disaster first-hand, changing the course of her life forever as she became committed to ensuring that such preventable tragedies would never happen again.

As Marrin points out, the Triangle Fire is part of a much larger story--the story of the greatest mass immigration in history, when millions of impoverished immigrants, mostly Italians and Russian Jews, poured into New York City and elsewhere. More than 3 out of 4 people lived in poverty, and work in factories and elsewhere was often dangerous--with no safety net such as we take for granted today. In some detail, with abundant archival photographs and maps, he discusses the reasons this immigration took place, with extreme poverty and natural disasters (including a devastating tsumani in Sicily) forcing millions of Italians to leave their homeland, while poverty and religious hatred pushed the Jews from Russia's Pale of Settlement.
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Format: Hardcover
I have read a few books about the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, but this one covers more than any other and is a riveting, compelling read to top it off. I was stunned to see a photo of a young Frances Perkins--destined to become the first female U.S. Cabinet member under Franklin Roosevelt. She saw the fire. I had no idea at all of her impressive background. And Al Smith? A name, a photo, too-bad-for-him a Catholic. Well, he probably would have made a fine president.
There are so many photographs here, so many stories of real people, especially focusing on the southern Italian and the eastern European Jewish people, both of whom were fleeing oppression and poverty and willing to work under horrendous conditions to make a living in the land of opportunity.
There are descriptions of the forces that led to massive immigration, of early attempts to organize workers, and of the workers themselves. The last chapter describes horrendous working conditions in third world countries today--and provokes questions about the non-black-and-white problems they raise. Is working for tiny pay in ghastly conditions better than being maimed or blinded and forced to beg in the streets? Or prostitution?
This is an excellent book, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

I write the Non-Fiction Booktalker column in School Library Journal and have co-written six books about book-talking nonfiction to children.
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Format: Hardcover
Having once read Upton Sinclair's novel THE JUNGLE -- published six years before the Triangle Fire -- I was not very surprised by much of what I read in FLESH & BLOOD SO CHEAP about the outrageous conditions faced by workers who lived and died in New York's garment industry.

But the recounting of the actual Triangle Fire is but a tiny corner of Albert Marrin's tour de force about the origins of the late-nineteenth century new wave of immigration; the related immigrant experience; the history of Manhattan's fashion industry; the evolution of American manufacturing; the height of New York City's Tammany-era and, most importantly, how government evolved in response to the demand to protect workers and consumers from all-powerful business interests who treated humans like so many cattle.

Albert Marrin does all this in 192 pages that include nearly one hundred photographs of life in early-twentieth century New York and extensive back matter.

In the process we meet many characters with whom I have some familiarity -- such as Frances Perkins, Al Smith, Jacob Riis, Fiorello La Guardia, and Robert Wagner -- along with others who made significant contributions, such as Clara Lenlich, Mary Dreier, Alva Belmont, and Little Rose Schneiderman. And I learned all about cutters and shtarkers and pogroms, and shleppers, and the Hester Street Pigmarket.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is ostensibly about the March 25, 1911 fire at the Triangle Waist Factory which killed 146 workers because of inadequate fire protection and locked doors. In reality, though, it is the story of poor, mostly immigrant workers and their families struggling to make it in the "New World". It's the story of the struggle for rights - labor rights, women's rights, etc. - that has recurred on a cyclical basis as each new generation has had to relearn the importance of and fight for the rights which previous generations also struggled for. Although the story of the Triangle Waist Fire is all but forgotten today (a tragedy in itself, hopefully remedied in large part by Albert Marrin's powerful book), its legacy continues to this day.

Marrin opens with a bare bones account of the fire and a brief glimpse of life in New York City around the early twentieth century. But to understand the fire and its context, one must first understand the people and the social conditions involved. So Marrin backs up his story to explore the lives of immigrants - mostly Italians and Russian Jews, particularly women and girls - who made up the bulk of the menial labor force in the garment industry around the turn of the century. Due to economic and political pressures in their own countries, these immigrants were pressed to venture to America with little more than the clothes on their backs and the money for their fare. They endured harsh conditions only to find a new life of hardship packed tightly into the tenements of New York City. But this new life, as hard as it was, offered relative safety and opportunity for advancement not to be had in the Old World, so they worked hard and made the most of it.
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