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.
Review: It is no surprise that this book is a 2011 National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature. I received a courtesy copy from the publisher for review and I was thoroughly engrossed from the beginning. Well-documented and easy to follow, Marrin does an outstanding job of painting a picture of life in New York City at the beginning of the twentieth century and the factors that led to the tragic shirtwaist factory fire on March 25, 1911. But Flesh and Blood is more than the story of a tragedy. It also paints a picture of the people of New York, offering thoughtful insights into immigration, the rise of the garment industry, workers’ and women’s rights, even organized crime. The growing pains experienced in the microcosm of New York City at the turn of the twentieth century shaped policies and decisions that influenced the entire country for years to come.