Audacity by Melanie Crowder
Told in masterful verse, this is the story of real-life heroine Clara Lemlich who led the largest strike by women in the history of the United States. Born in Russia, Clara was forbidden any education because her devout Jewish father did not approve. When her family emigrated to the United States at the turn of the twentieth century, Clara was required to go to work to support her family while her father and brothers dedicated their lives to prayer. Clara got work in the garment industry, discovering horrific working conditions and refusing to just accept them. Clara worked to get women workers taken seriously by the male-driven unions and for their plight to be incorporated into union strikes and negotiations. Along the way, she also used the public library and free classes to teach herself English. Anyone wondering if one person can truly make a difference in a larger world has only to read this book to be inspired to action.
Crowder’s poetry here is completely amazing. From one page to the next, she captures the incredible spirit of this young woman and her desire to educate herself. When she finds something to fight for, she is unstoppable, fearless and unbeatable. Crowder also ties Clara to nature, even in among the tenement buildings of New York City. She is a small hawk, a flower in the concrete, she herself is the force of nature in the city.
Just the descriptions of the horrific beatings that Clara withstood on the streets and the picket lines would make most people quit. But Crowder makes sure to depict Clara as a person first and a hero second. It makes what she did so much more amazing but also encourages everyone to realize that they too have this within them if they are willing to take on the fight. This woman was a heroine in such a profound way, unsupported by her family and willing to use all of her free time to make a difference, she is exactly what the modern world needs to have us make change now.
Strong, beautiful and wonderfully defiant, this book is an incredible testament to the power of one woman to change the world. Appropriate for ages 13-17.
Reviewed from ARC received from Philomel.