Several years ago, our family went on an East Coast adventure, and our first stop was the Lower East Side in New York City. I had never been to New York, and the city was everything I dreamed it would be – and more! The Lower East Side has bustling streets, restaurants with every type of food imaginable, and one of the best interactive museums around. If you go to New York, plan to spend at least one day in this historic neighborhood.
All-of-a-Kind Family series by Sydney Taylor – One of my favorite series growing up was Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind Family series. The first book, All-of-a-Kind Family, starts with the adventures of five Jewish sisters growing up in the Lower East Side at the turn of the century. Responsible Ella, mischievous Henny, shy Sarah, imaginative Charlotte, and little Gertie are the five sisters, two years apart in age. They have adventures around their home and neighborhood, and the books sweetly reflect a different time and place in America. Highly recommended, especially for families with children between the ages of 6-12.
The Memory Coat by Elvira Woodruff is a picture book about an immigrating family that resonates with all ages. Grisha, an orphan, lives with his cousin Rachel and her family. When they immigrate to America, Rachel’s quick thinking saves Grisha and keeps the family together as they start their new life in New York.
One of the best books I read in 2017 was The Golem and The Jinni by Helene Wecker. This intriguing blend of historical fiction and fantasy takes place in 1899, when Chava, a woman created from clay, and Ahmad, a genie, arrive separately in the Jewish and Assyrian neighborhoods around the Lower East Side. Their lives become entwined as they learn to navigate this changing community while keeping their supernatural nature a secret from all.
Rhys Bowen has several engaging mystery series, one of which is the Molly Murphy mystery series. Murphy’s Law is the first in the series. Irish Molly Murphy is on the run after accidentally killing her would-be assailant. She hops a boat to America and soon finds herself accused of a murder she did not commit. Molly must become a sleuth to clear her name and find the real murderer before she is locked up for good.
Even if you can’t make it to New York City, The Tenement Museum is a fantastic resource to learn about New York’s tenement buildings, and the people who worked and lived in them.
The Bowery Boys – The Bowery Boys have one of the best podcasts around. Full of New York City history and puns (I love a good pun), the two co-hosts focus on a different area of the city in each episode. Here’s one to listen to, and here’s one about the food of the neighborhood. They also have a well-researched and entertaining book about New York’s neighborhoods called The Bowery Boys: Adventures in Old New York.
If you go, don’t miss:
– A tour at The Tenement Museum. All of the tours are excellent and informative, but we especially loved the Shop Life tour.
– There are SO many fabulous restaurants in New York, but my favorites in this area are Russ and Daughters Cafe (the lox!) Pig and Khao (if you are adventurous, try the sisig-it’s amazing and the restaurant is known for this dish) and of course, Katz’s Deli (remember that famous scene from When Harry Met Sally?). The line may be long, but the pastrami and corned beef sandwiches are outstanding and worth the wait.