Tonight the West End Museum is hosting an event to celebrate and introduce my historical novel Beguiled, which is set in that old and fondly remembered neighborhood of Boston that was razed by the Redevelopment Authority in the 1950s. If you’re one of those, please join me at 6:30-8PM TODAY, Tuesday 9/25th at 150 Stanford St in Boston, with entrance around the corner on Lomasney Way. Duane Lucia, 1 of the directors and wonderful history buff of the neighborhood, will be interviewing me.
I’ve written an earlier post about the West End, published on Feb 2 on this website. It’s been remarkable how many people I’ve met in the Boston area who are West End “survivors” or their families were. There is always great enthusiasm from them as they recall streets and buildings and monuments of their youth. More importantly, they remember stories of the camaraderie among different ethnic groups, who sought to assimilate into the Golden Land (how can it still be the Golden Land for refugees or even for immigrants with Green cards today?),but back then they also wanted to retain their cultural heritage, much as immigrants do today.
Miriam Levine, Beguiled’s protagonist, and Ma and Pop, represent a fictional family who got their bearings in the West End in the early 1900s, when an Italian and Irish family lived in the same 3-decker. Despite Miriam’s sometimes conflicted feelings about the “tenement” neighborhood with all the smells of garbage in the alleys, with multi-language screeching on the streets, she returns there time and again. Even after moving out to a middle class area, she yearns for the familiarity and comfort of her Leverett Street neighborhood, especially when she returns to take part in a march for suffrage and on women’s first day of suffrage in 1920.
Would that we had any semblance of that normalcy of cross-ethnic mingling and understanding, despite differences today?