Dear Great Book Guru, I plan to be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Brooklyn this week with friends and family. I know I annoy them with my many, many questions about this popular borough so I would like to read something that will provide me with some answers. Any suggestions? Baffled by Brooklyn
Dear Baffled by Brooklyn, I remember reading a short story by Thomas Wolfe “Only the Dead Know Brooklyn” and wondering if it were true since for me Brooklyn has always seemed cloaked in myth and mystery. Well, I just finished a book that brought great enlightenment to me: THE NEW BROOKLYN by Kay Hymowitz. The author takes us on a journey of hundreds of years from the 1600’s Dutch farmlands, through the Civil War, the Southern migration, two World Wars, the postwar suburban exodus, and finally bringing us to today’s Brooklyn, one of the world’s most desirable urban locations. The roles ship building, sugar distilleries, subway lines, bridges, and -yes- breweries played in Brooklyn’s history is highlighted throughout in colorful detail. Focusing on seven neighborhoods: Park Slope, Williamsburg, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Sunset Park, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, and Canarsie, she details how each exemplifies “what it takes to bring a city back.” In later chapters, she wrestles with the question “can this new wealth lift up the long disadvantaged?” Highly recommended!