Review of "Flesh and Blood So Cheap" by Al Marrin

Rating: 5 Stars
Category: Juvenile Non-Fiction, History United States
Age level: 10 and up
Grade level: 5 and up
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Pub Date: February 2011
Kindle Format: 1803 lines
Hardcover Format: 192 pages
Kindle edition: $10.99
Hardcover: $13.59
Product Description from the Publisher: 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.

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.
Marrin also does an outstanding job of relating the struggles of New York City garment workers in the early 1900s to the current conditions of factory workers in developing nations like Bangladesh and China, handling the delicate issues of wages and standards of living in a manner most pre-teens can understand. An excellent resource for intermediate social studies, this book is a must for every fifth grade classroom.


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