deirdre_nyc (deirdre_nyc) wrote,

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Book #21: Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History, by Helene Stapinski

This is the memoir Helene Stapinski was born to write, whether she liked it or not. Set mostly in Jersey City, NJ, Stapinski gets low-down with the too-colorful characters, many from her own large family, who dominate the past, at least the way she tells it. She takes a long view of the city, just across the river from glittering Manhattan, distilling the corruption, dirty politics, petty theft, fallen-off-the-truck swag, and murders that gave the place its tainted reputation.

Stapinski could be an historian, and I hope she dives back into Jersey City for her inspiration. The book caught a pre-gentrification era that could be applied to many neighborhoods in the metropolitan area, now scrubbed clean of their origins.

She ran far to get away from her roots (all the way to the Alaskan wilderness for a year), but when she finally stopped moving and told this story she let her "inner Jersey" shine.

Tags: memoir, nonfiction, reading

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