In City of Grit and Gold, by Maud Macrory Powell, 12-year-old Addie navigates the dangerous and ever-changing world of Jewish immigrants in 1886 Chicago. Amid striking workers and the looming threat of illness and injury, Addie must come to understand her topsy-turvy family dynamics while discovering who she really is.
This is a sweet story that weaves in culture from the "old country," while showing how the immigrants adjust to their new lives. Macrory does an excellent job of including German phrases and lullabies in a way that makes perfect sense to readers who don't know a lick of German.
The novel also provides wonderful insights into differing perspectives among the immigrants during a time when workers' rights were just beginning to be established.
Addie struggles to understand her father's insistence that things in America were so much better than in his homeland.
". . . as though they lived high on the hog in their own countries," he says. "They should be grateful for the work and stay home at night."
At the same time, her uncle demands better pay and fairer treatment. It's up to Addie to figure out who is right, or could they both be?
This story is a provocative exploration of the thoughts, beliefs, and struggles that plague the haves and the have-nots, all seen through the eyes of a child.
It will leave you examining your own beliefs, which is always a good thing!
Maud Macrory Powell comes from a family of writers. She was born and raised in Washington, D.C. and went on to study comparative religion in college and environmental studies in graduate school. Maud and her husband run an organic seed and vegetable farm in the Siskiyou mountains of southwestern Oregon. They grow fruits and vegetables for their local community and raise vegetable and flower seeds that are shipped, sold, and sown all over the country. Maud thinks of her words and stories like the seeds on the farm- she creates fertile ground for them, cultivates and crafts, separates the good from the chaff, then scatters them as far and wide as they will reach.
Her essay “The Fruits of My Labor” was published in the anthology Greenhorns: The Next Generation of American Farmers. City of Grit and Gold is her debut novel.