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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Saint Mazie by Jami Attenberg

I did not know this when I read the book, but this is not the first time someone has written about Mazie Phillips, the real life woman of the Lower East Side who worked the ticket booth of a local cinema and was renowned for her calling to walk the streets of her neighborhood during the Great Depression, giving the those who were down and out dimes and nickels for food, bars of soap, and not surprisingly, after you read the book, sips of booze from her flask.The first was Joseph Mitchell, who wrote a piece on her for the New Yorker in 1940.  Attenberg takes the truths of Mazie's life and writes a novel of historical fiction around a bold and brave woman who overcame many obstacles in order to have a life for herself, and while she did not have a lot, she compassionately shared with those who were less fortunate than herself.  This book works as a stand alone novel, but it also serves to remind us that those days are not behind us.  The demonization of the poor is alive and well in the 21st century, and Attenberg's novel is a gentle nudge to the reader to think about their own personal beliefs about society's responsibilities to its citizens.

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