Saturday, July 10, 2010

Bread and Roses Too by Katherine Paterson

“I think,” she began quietly. “I think we want…not just bread for our bellies. We want more than only bread. We want food for our hearts, our souls. We want-how to say it? We want, you know-Puccini music . . . . We want for our beautiful children some beauty. We want roses . . . .”

A thin slice of bread and a smear of molasses was all the Seruttis ate for breakfast. Often there was no dinner on the table since Rosa’s Papa had died. Although both Mama and 14-year-old Anna worked in the mill, making clothes they were too poor to wear, there was never enough money to go around. Each worker made barely 50 cents a day, and rent for the cramped apartments they lived in was $6 a week, plus food, clothing and coal for the stove. All this money went to the mill owner Mr. Bill Wood, who also owned the apartments.

Jake Beale also worked in the mill like most of the people in Lawrence. Although he had a house, a shack is a more suitable description, he spent his nights under trash heaps to keep warm. His earnings were spent on booze for his father. Years of beating had left Jake with nothing but hatred towards his father. Although this is a terrible thing to wish, Jake wished his father dead.

Later the town of Lawrence forms a strike against the corrupt mill owner, who has been cheating his workers out of their money by giving them salaries that are not are enough to pay for the necessities of life. Mr. Bill Wood kept all his workers in debt.

During the strike Rosa and Jake find themselves in tough situations. Rosa is terrified that Mama will be jailed and her three children will be left to fend for themselves. For Jake it’s a threat of being killed by his father if he joins the strike. Then Rosa, Jake and the rest of the children in the middle of the strike are offered a very special opportunity: to go to Vermont and live with strangers until the strike is over. For Rosa, being away from her family is worse. For Jake it’s a chance to start over. For both it’s a time of growing up.

Bread and Roses Too reveals a dark side of American history. The immigrant labor struggle is amazing and horrific. The way the immigrants were treated disgusted me. I have not finished this book yet, but I know the pages to come will hold more amazing and tragic events.

3 Stars

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