About Just Kids From the Bronx
(Henry Holt and Co., 2015)
The vivid oral histories in Arlene Alda’s Just Kids from the Bronx reveal what it was like to grow up in the place that bred the influencers in just about every field of endeavor today. The Bronx is where Michael Kay, the New York Yankees’ play-by-play broadcaster, first experienced baseball, where J. Crew’s CEO Millard (Mickey) Drexler found his ambition, where Neil deGrasse Tyson and Dava Sobel fell in love with science early on and where music-making inspired hip hop’s Grandmaster Melle Mel to change the world of music forever.
“Arlene Alda must be a great listener because all kinds of amazing people tell her remarkable things in Just Kids from the Bronx. No matter where you grew up, you’ll find this a down-to-earth, inspiring book about the American promise fulfilled.” —President Bill Clinton
“Reading these interviews is akin to sitting on a stoop or a rooftop in any teeming Bronx neighborhood while voices with various accents, telling tales of various triumphs and adventures, rise up from the streets. Just Kids from the Bronx is both a cacophony and a chorus: a diverse collection of childhood memories that together form the singular, and very American, story of a remarkable place.” —Alice McDermott, National Book Award for Fiction winner and author of New York Times bestselling novel Someone
“The childhood recollections in Arlene Alda’s fascinating Just Kids from the Bronx run the gamut from surprisingly funny to painfully shocking. For anyone anywhere who has wanted to achieve their heart’s desire, Just Kids from the Bronx shows the early days of successful risk takers from that borough who have done it, each in his or her own way. Made me wish I had been born in the Bronx." —Barbara Walters
“In these funny, intelligent, generous-spirited reminiscences, an extremely diverse group of Bronxites pay tribute to the borough where they were raised. Many of these are rags-to-riches impresarios whose riches are better known than their rags. Here, they give voice to the place that made them and in doing so, they make you fall in love with the Bronx, and with the resilience and moxy it seems to have bred in its sons and daughters. This is an enchanting collection.” —Andrew Solomon, New York Times bestselling author of Far From the Tree and National Book Award-winning author of The Noonday Demon
“I was mesmerized reading about the childhoods of celebrities and leaders in fields from art to science, revealing the roots that launched their journeys from humble beginnings in the Bronx to extraordinary success. An eye-opener into what drives the creation of remarkable lives. I will long remember this wonderful book.” —Walter Mischel, author of The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control, Professor of Psychology, Columbia University
“Among the wonders of Arlene Alda’s wondrous book is the stunning quality of the storytelling. Just Kids from the Bronx is a Bronx tale, to be sure—a collective picture of a place characterized by citizen yearnings to be elsewhere and the glorious discoveries and self-discoveries that come with staying put. But the parts that go into this whole are equally rich as pieces of literature.Nearly every one of these offerings, including the author’s own, is a little work of art, each contributor foraging for the meaning and the music of a life. The result is America in a borough—at once hopeful, dangerous, regenerative, tough, joyous, and in the end, beautiful.”
From Kirkus Reviews:
"Short essays connected by a common thread: a childhood spent in the Bronx.
Through the voices of more than 60 interviewees, Alda (Except the Color Grey, 2011, etc.) presents a kaleidoscope of images from these vignettes of life in the New York borough. The pieces span from the late 1920s to the early 1990s and capture the evolution of a neighborhood. Since the Bronx was originally settled primarily by Jewish, Italian and Irish immigrants, the initial stories are rich with details about life during the Depression and World War II and its aftermath. Then the narrative gradually shifts with the progression of time to personal reflections from newer arrivals comprised of African-Americans, Puerto Ricans and Dominicans. These short slices of life offer intimate glimpses into the childhood memories of well-known people such as Colin Powell, Milton Glaser, Abe Rosenthal and Al Pacino..."
From Publisher's Weekly:
“A fabulous collection of 65 brief oral histories . . . . There are few readers who won’t be touched by this affectionate look backward, which is as much about the universal state of childhood as the specific borough of the Bronx.”
"'We shall not cease from exploration, and at the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time'-- T.S. Eliot
And thankfully, the kids came back!
All of reflections found in this assembly share one common dominator: the significance of “home”. The people, institutions, buildings, events, sounds, smells from time spent in these neighborhoods produced, and continue to produce, creators, innovators and leaders whose contributions transcend time and geography. Imagine the bookshelf without Mary Higgins Clark, the cinema without Marty Bregman, Carl Reiner or Al Pacino, the Big Apple without Milton Glaser or Abe Rosenthal, the stoop without Dion, the ball field without Bobby Bonilla, the world stage without Colin Powell-- all of the teachers, poets, comics, physicists, artists, musicians doctors, lawyers, all magnetized (by both sides) by this much maligned place. And in these little windows of achievement that Arlene Alda lovingly documented, we are given insight into the countless other hard working members of this community who helped inspire those profiled, and no doubt, so many others who passed though that borough and called it home…who woulda thunk it!
An entertaining and inspiring read!"