Saturday, March 5, 2011

Flesh and Blood So Cheap by Al Marrin


Pink Owl Reads Rating: 4/5 Hoots Summary:

On March 25, 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City burst into flames.  The factory was crowded.  The doors were locked to ensure workers stay inside.  One hundred forty-six people—mostly women—perished; it was one of the most lethal workplace fires in American history until September 11, 2001.But the story of the fire is not the story of one accidental moment in time.  It is a story of immigration and hard work to make it in a new country, as Italians and Jews and others traveled to America to find a better life.  It is the story of poor working conditions and greedy bosses, as garment workers discovered the endless sacrifices required to make ends meet.  It is the story of unimaginable, but avoidable, disaster.  And it the story of the unquenchable pride and activism of fearless immigrants and women who stood up to business, got America on their side, and finally changed working conditions for our entire nation, initiating radical new laws we take for granted today.
With Flesh and Blood So Cheap, Albert Marrin has crafted a gripping, nuanced, and poignant account of one of America's defining tragedies.

My Thoughts:
Flesh and Blood So Cheap by Al Marrin was an easy-to-read book chocked full of information about the Triangle Shirtwaist Company Factory Fire. I have been fascinated by the Triangle Factory fire since I read Ashes of Roses by Mary Jane Auch several years ago. I think one of the reasons I find it so fascinating, and what I believe will also make it feel relevant to young adult readers, is that most of the women who worked in the factory were between 14 and 20 years old. These girls struggled through unbelievable working and living conditions to support themselves and their families. It is inspiring to read about these ordinary young women who worked and sacrificed to try to improve working conditions, sometimes being verbally abused and even beaten by police officers while doing their shifts on the picket line. Some of them were arrested for striking and others were blacklisted from working in the garment district ever again.

Flesh and Blood So Cheap took an interesting and unique approach to the factory fire. While the books I’d read on the topic in the past focused on the individual experiences of the workers, Flesh and Blood So Cheap looked at the bigger picture. The author explored many contributing factors to the tragedy, including the reasons people emigrated to America, what their living conditions were like once they arrived, the demand for ready made garments, and the factory owners’ motivations. The chapters on the fire itself were matter-of-fact but still extremely moving. Marrin described the exact conditions within the building which contributed to the large number of
casualties. The book did not end with the tragic fire. Marrin discusses the push for reforms and unionization which was inspired by the disaster at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in the years that followed. Many of the survivors went on to be leaders of unions and other labor organizations. I was surprised to learn that the female workers’ plight was also tied to the fight for women’s suffrage. All of these elements contribute to a comprehensive picture of the tragedy and it’s place in American History.

I was highly satisfied by this book and was amazed by the amount of information it conveyed in a really accessible format. The book was clearly written and well-supported with photographs and an impressive bibliography.

I would recommend pairing this book with the following historical fiction titles: Ashes of Roses by Mary Jane Auch, Lost by Jacqueline Davies, Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddix, and Threads and Flames by Esther M. Friesner.

No comments:

Post a Comment