Esther "Esse" Abramowitz, is a hard-working laborer in a Lower East Side sweatshop who struggles for fair treatment against exploitative employers. Her coming-of-age coincides with a love affair with Kid Twist, who's had a falling-out with a gangster, Gyp the Blood. Esse and Gyp the Blood aim to escape their common oppressive circumstances. Events lead to a startling finale on Coney Island.
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December 05, 2002
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Excerpt from Dreamland by Kevin Baker
I know a story.
"I know a story," said Trick the Dwarf, and the rest of them leaned in close: Nanook the Esquimau, and Ota Benga the Pygmy, and Yolanda the Wild Queen of the Amazon.
"What kind of story?"
Yolanda's eyes bulged suspiciously, and it occurred to him again how she alone might actually be as advertised: tiny, leather-skinned woman with a mock feather headdress, betel nut juice dribbling out through the stumps of her teeth. A mulatto from Caracas, or a Negro Seminole woman from deep in the Okefenokee, at least.
"What kind of a story?"
He swiped at the last swathes of greasepaint around his neck and ears, and looked down the pier of the ruined park to the west before replying. All gone now, even the brilliant white tower festooned with eagles, its beacon reaching twenty miles out to sea. Gone, gone.
It was evening, and the lights were just going up along Surf Avenue: a million electric bulbs spinning a soft, yellow gauze over the beach and parks. The night crowd was already arriving, pouring off the New York & Sea Beach line in white trousers and dresses, white jackets and skirts and straw hats -- all quickly absorbed by the glowing lights.