Full Text Reviews:
School Library Journal - 10/01/2014 Gr 7 Up—Written in verse, this novel is loosely based on the life of Clara Lemlich Shavelson, the leader of New York shirtwaist strike of 1909. Clara and her family are Jewish Russians who flee the anti-Semitism of turn-of-the-century Russia to find a better life in America. However, Clara still experiences gender and religious oppression in New York. She is unable to gain the education she desires, because she is forced to work in a sweatshop, and she can't rise above her given status as an immigrant worker because foreign women are taught only rudimentary English. But "Inside I am anything/ but fresh off the boat./ I have been ready for this/ possibility/ all my life," Clara declares, and she proves that she has the audacity to do the impossible for a female and a Jew: organizing a woman's union and ultimately having her voice heard. The verse form of the narrative lends lightness to an otherwise bleak topic and moves the story along quickly, while artful formatting of the text creates and sustains mood. This book stands alone in its topic and time frame, with only Michelle Markel's picture book Brave Girl (HarperCollins, 2013) as a nonfiction companion. With historical notes, interviews with Clara's family members, and a glossary of Yiddish terms, Audacity is an impactful addition to any historical fiction collection.—Brittany Staszak, Glencoe Public Library, IL - Copyright 2014 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Booklist - 12/01/2014 From the shtetl, through the Russian Empire pogroms and steerage, Clara Lemlich and her family finally arrive in teeming New York City. Crowder’s verse novel tells the eastern European immigrant story at the turn of the last century. Here, whether in the Old or New World, the men study Torah and the women work. Clara not only endures her hard labor in abysmal conditions but feels deeply for those women and children suffering around her. After the workday, Clara studies English, always reaching for her destiny. In short order, it is the labor movement that will be her calling and unionizing that will be her vehicle. Crowder develops Clara’s education from the mean streets through persuasive verse: “I have only been in this country two years but quickly, I learned you have to fight for what you want—you have to take what you need.” It is Clara who claims that all she has is “audacity.” Thanks to audacious Clara, this fictional narrative, based on Lemlich’s real-life experiences, illuminates the labor-union movement, especially the women’s strike known as the Uprising of the 20,000. - Copyright 2014 Booklist.
Bulletin for the Center... - 03/01/2015 Reference to Clara Lemlich often appears when the story of garment workers’ unionization is told, and in this verse novel Crowder takes an imaginative approach to the activist’s life, reaching further back into her subject’s personal history and probing for the probable motivations that drove her to risk her and her family’s well-being to fight for justice in the early twentieth-century labor market. In graceful, affecting poetry, Clara shares an internal monologue, relating her early years in a Russian shtetl as the hardworking daughter, helping to keep the household running while her father and brothers pursue religious study. Their move to America in the wake of a pogrom finds her in much the same position but now chafing under the expectation of being the main breadwinner as well, working dawn to dusk in a garment sweatshop. When the concepts of socialism and unionization ignite her spirit, she takes to the union hall and picket lines, fighting to convince other young women in her situation to join the battle and ultimately seeing some measure of success in sparking a general strike. Crowder does an outstanding job of limning Clara’s inner struggles-controlling the anger she feels toward the family she begins to regard as freeloaders and trying to balance her need to survive the week with her ambition to build a future as a modern American woman: “Look around you,/ I long to say,/next time you go to shul/ in the middle of the day./ Do you see anyone there/ but the rabbi?/ If you want this family to eat,/ get a job/ and hold what is holy/ in your mind/ and heart/ like the rest of us.” With a thorough historical note, glossary of terms, and bibliography, this will make an excellent complement to units on women’s rights and the labor movement, but it will also satisfy readers in search of a well-told tale of a fierce heroine. EB - Copyright 2015 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.