Imagine being a sixteen year old boy, walking across Europe and leaving your whole family behind. Imagine being a young girl, the poor daughter of immigrants, trying to bridge the gap between your parents and the world they now live in. In this novel, the author takes you into their world and their minds so that we can all experience what their lives must have been like.”
Pacific Street is a fact-based work of fiction that was inspired by the genealogy research I did over several years. Although the skeleton of the story was inspired by that research, much of the story and the characters in it are fictional. It is thus a mix of fact and fiction.
The story takes place between 1899 and 1915 and is in many ways a coming of age story for Isadore and Gussie, the two main characters. The action occurs primarily in New York City although it also covers Isadore’s childhood in Romania and his escape from the oppression he and his family faced in that country. This is a story for our times—a story that is appropriate for adults as well as young adults. It illuminates the risks and the struggles faced by new immigrants and shows not only what America provided to them, but also what they contributed to America.
Paperback: 232 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (December 20, 2016)
More information available at Amazon here. Review copies available upon request.
Kirkus Reviews had this to say about Pacific Street:
The narrative alternates between these two main characters as they steadily age, recounting the immigration challenges they faced, their encounters with bigotry, and their difficulties meeting family expectations and achieving the American dream. It’s easy to sympathize with the hardworking Isadore, who feels stuck without a trade, and who’s less attractive and successful than his younger brother. Gussie, too, is relatable as a young woman who’s cut off from school and peers, stuck babysitting her younger brother, and fantasizing while reading books that she borrows from the library. Although this fictional story draws upon the author’s family history, it’s not so sentimental that strangers will find it inaccessible. Indeed, anyone whose family has experienced the hardships of immigration and assimilation will appreciate the book’s message. In straightforward, matter-of-fact prose, Cohen portrays her characters’ foibles as well as their virtues.
Reader reviews are also available at Amazon. Here are a few excerpts from just a few of those reviews:
“The story of Cohen’s grandparents, Isadore and Gussie, is an inspiring coming-to-America tale with all the resonance of actual experience. Cohen has painstakingly documented the early part of her relatives’ lives through historical research using official documents and has incorporated information shared through family stories. She has researched the settings and cultures described and added her own imagination to infuse the book with appropriate details and descriptions. This is no dry historical telling, but a well-structured adventure full of tragedies and triumphs like a novel, although more accurately, it is creative nonfiction in the historical subgenre.” Luanne Castle
“A beautifully written story combining narratives of the history of the author’s grandmother and grandfather and how they eventually meet and marry.
That being said, it paints the story of the immigrant as an outsider in the US at the end of the nineteenth century going into the early twentieth century. And it portrays the persecution of the Jewish community in eastern Europe and the assimilation of immigrants compared to members of the native born New York Jewish community. This book brings it all together with a woven thread of love, loss, challenge, and new love as two families come together.” Eye on Books
“Beautifully written, the author, Amy B. Cohen, draws you in and engulfs you in the immigrant experience. A must for our teen reader as well.” Sharon Haimovitz-Civitano
“Amy Cohen’s book was a thoroughly engaging read.
Her writing style is beautifully descriptive and the development of her characters
brought them to life. It is obvious that Ms. Cohen has done extensive genealogical research which she was able to creatively combine with her imagination to produce this family tribute and legacy.” Avid Reader
I was interviewed on June 13, 2018, by Bernadette Duncan at Pioneer Valley Radio. You can listen here.