Thursday, February 9, 2017

NYC Gilded Age Book Recommendations


This is perhaps a sort of shameful confession from a mother in her thirties, but I'm quite obsessed right now with Broadway's Newsies.  Last spring, I got to see the musical off-broadway with my siblings.  Ever since, I have been listening to the music.  It always makes me smile to hear the perky beats and defiant lyrics.  I'm very excited this month to see the show in the movie theater, and I'm really hoping that Disney will release it on DVD this summer.


The Newsies have reawakened my interest in the Gilded Age.  The time period is fascinating because of how quickly the world was changing and what those changes meant for the next century.  Horses were being replaced by automobiles, factory workers were demanding their rights, and reformers were working for change.  This is the era of the telephone, the railway, and the lightbulb.  Immigrants were pouring into our country by the thousands, bringing with them urban problems, disease, cheap labor, and innovations.  This was the time of industrial and political giants like Boss Tammany, Thomas Edison, John D. Rockefeller, and Joseph Pulitzer.  And, through all the changes and turmoil, the voices of the Newsies could be heard, peddling the banner.

Most books set in the late 1800's feature either the Wild West or Southern reconstruction.  I've read plenty of books set in those places, but it's harder to find books set in NYC at that time.  If you're slightly interested in the Gilded Age and/or you like to read about history, here's my recommendations of books.  Enjoy!


Read and Recommended

Children of the City: At Work and At Play
This book was written in the 1980's and is now known as the inspiration for the Newsies.  As a fan, it's fun to read the stories and antidotes in the book and then connect them to the script of the musical.  As a historical non-fiction book, it's well written and interesting, covering the span from roughly the 1870's to WWI.

How the Other Half Lives
An actual book about life in the Gilded Age written in the 1890's.  This historical muckraking book has lots of pictures and stories from the era, making it a complete treasure for history buffs.  And you can read it for free off the computer by clicking the title above!

City of Promise
The fourth of four historical fiction books by Beverly Swerling covering NYC history, this novel starts at the grimy end of the Civil War and sweeps into the glamour of the Gilded Age.  I have read three of her four books, and I love that she writes about unusual parts of history, not the ones that everyone else has already covered.  They are medically focused, so don't read them if you have a weak stomach.

Elizabeth Street
Ok, so I'm reading this one now.  I'll update after I read it.

Calling Extra
This fan-fiction novel covers the newsboys strike of 1899.  It's not my favorite book, but if you're specifically looking for a book featuring Newsies then this is a good place to start.

Newsies Fan Fiction
Most of this for-internet-consumption isn't very well written or well researched, but it can still be interesting if you're looking for stories featuring your favorite characters.

Recommended But Not Read

New York
A sweeping (and long) historical fiction novel covering 400 years of NYC history.

Band of Sisters
A mystery novel about immigrants, shop girls (my other interest- thanks to Mr. Selfridge), and women's rights.

Orphan #8
Set in 1919, this one is a bit outside of the Gilded Age.  It's the story of a Jewish orphan who must chose between revenge or mercy toward a doctor who experimented on her.

The Gilded Hour
A novel of two female doctors set in 1883.  Sounds fascinating.

As you can see, I have a big wish list.


Youth/Homeschooling

City of Orphans
Set in 1883, this is the story of a newsie and his sister, set against the poverty and glamour of the Gilded Age.

The Journal of Finn Reardon
This is a "My Name is America" series book about the Newsboys Strike of 1899.

Kids on Strike
A collection of different child-led strikes from around the 1900's.

Learning Activities Inspired by Newsies
One of my favorite bloggers did a homeschool unit on the Newsies.
Click on the link to see her ideas.

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