Crowder, Melanie. Audacity. New York: Philomel Books, 2015. 978-0-399-16899-4. 389 p. $17.99. Gr. 7 and up.
Clara Lemlich is a Russian-Jewish immigrant living in the Lower East Side of New York City during the early 1900s. Forced to work in garment factories in order to provide for her family, Clara is appalled by the horrendous working conditions for young female immigrants. Although she has always dreamed of going to college and becoming a doctor, she soon finds herself torn between this goal and her new dream of improving working conditions for all factory workers. Written in verse and based loosely on the life of Clara Lemlich Shavelson, a leading figure in a massive strike of NYC garment workers in 1909, this story celebrates the tremendous power of people working together towards a common goal. To further ignite discussion, the book includes a historical note about the real Clara Lemlich, an interview with some of her living family members, a glossary of Jewish and Russian terms, and a list of selected sources for further study.
Historical Fiction Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School
This book touches on a broad range of topics in U.S. history and could therefore be used to supplement curriculum in areas such as the persecution of Jews, workers’ rights, women’s history, labor unions, immigration, and Ellis Island. It could be paired with a nonfiction title such as Albert Marrin’s Flesh & Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and its Legacy. Although the uprising of the 20,000 referred to in Audacity happened in 1909 and the Triangle fire was a few years later (1911), it would be a great lead-in to this topic. It could also be paired with Michelle Markel’s Brave Girl, although this picture book is targeted more towards lower elementary students. Because there are not many titles for young adults on this topic, this is an excellent addition that will help fill in gaps in any historical fiction collection.