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Brooklyn Was Mine

3.40  ·  Rating Details  ·  250 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
A tribute to New York City's most literary borough-featuring original nonfiction pieces by today's most celebrated writers.

Of all the urban landscapes in America, perhaps none has so thoroughly infused and nurtured modern literature as Brooklyn. Though its literary history runs deep-Walt Whitman, Truman Capote, and Norman Mailer are just a few of its storied inhabitants-
Paperback, 240 pages
Published January 2nd 2008 by Riverhead Books
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Jan 15, 2008 Joanna rated it it was amazing
This is a fabulous collection of essays by writers who live in Brooklyn about their personal relationship with the borough. Even if I had not written an essay for this book, i would still run out and buy this book and give it as gifts! None of the writers were paid for their work and all the proceeds go to legal council for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. These writers are diverse-- some famous, some not-- and all have something unique to offer.
Feb 19, 2011 Oriana rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2010, read-2011
Saw this at the phenomenal Brooklyn bookseller / publisher powerHouse books, and I couldn't resist. I <3 you, Brooklyn!


Well this is just the fucking worst. I stuck this book in a tote bag to bring to the laundromat, and when I came home and put all my clothes away, book + bag were gone! WTF? I never lose books, and this is even one I paid full fucking price for. And I was really enjoying it! Fuck.

I should have a lot of good book karma by now, can the universe please magic me another copy
May 13, 2008 Liz rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Brooklynites
I enjoyed reading this collection because I enjoy reading about Brooklyn. The best stories were memoirs chronicling the changes in Brooklyn over the years - people's memories of childhoods, stories from parents and grandparents. The less successful stories are the ones that read like an assignment, which is essentially what this collection was - an assignment to local writers to write about their borough. But for a good cause! Proceeds benefit Develop, Don't Destroy, the organization working aga ...more
Joe Sullivan
Feb 23, 2010 Joe Sullivan rated it liked it
A few good essays about Brooklyn, mostly in a historical context. I learned a few things about the Brooklyn Bridge, Clinton Hill and egg creams. In some ways, I feel as if all of these authors went to the same school and learned to write the same way. No one voice really stands out much beyond the rest, save for Lethem's sci-fi piece, which is more like stream of consciousness than an essay. I think I like Rachel Cline's essay the best, if I had to pick. Up in the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell is ...more
Apr 04, 2011 Lindsey rated it liked it
In the course of a lifetime, there will more likely than not be several places that a person calls home. But to feel as though one IS home is certainly a different matter, a matter that is rooted to a location's essence as much as its longitude and latitude. And Brooklyn in particular, with its diverse population, odd histories, quirky mysteries, and its proximity to the metropolis it most decidedly is not, has been known to inspire both fierce loyalty and true love.
Having moved here almost a y
Christina Rau
Nov 13, 2015 Christina Rau rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
In gearing up for my fellowship, I've been doing a lot of reading, and blogging, about Brooklyn. One of the best finds was Brooklyn Was Mine. I read the required passage first, but I couldn't return the book to the library--I even renewed the loan--until I finished it (save two or three essays that weren't for me--they were for people who like sports and weather and animals for extended periods of time).
Nothing explains a place better than a personal story of experience. The experiences retold
Jan 21, 2013 7709william rated it it was ok
Genre: Non-Fiction/Essays.

Quick Blurb: People from Brooklyn talk about the fuhgeddaboudit borough and its greatness. Others talk about their experiences in Brooklyn.

Who would like this: People from the age 20 and up, very mature, not a kid's book. Anybody who wants to hear about other humans or about Brooklyn.

I don't have much to say about this book since it's compiled up of essays, so no story. As a Brooklynite, I enjoyed reading this book, I had only one complaint about it, but even with one c
Laala Alghata
Feb 24, 2010 Laala Alghata rated it liked it
Brooklyn Was Mine was an interesting book to read. It’s a collection of essays written by residents of the borough. I won’t make this review long simply because the book didn’t mean that much to me. Some of the essays were well written, and interesting to read, some were a disappointment considering they were written by established writers, but all in all this felt like a book to be read by Brooklynites, and not those foreign to New York City. You had to understand the barrier between Manhattan ...more
Sep 07, 2015 Bridget rated it liked it
Writers do a delightful job of complicating nostalgia but there's a notable(!) absence of lit addressing interpersonal and structural violence.
May 28, 2015 Julia rated it really liked it
Loved it! Got it in Brooklyn at the B&N on 7th ave during my last trip :)
Jan 26, 2008 Matthew rated it liked it
Very light, but a few interesting nonfiction essays on Brooklyn. The running theme is how neighborhoods' real character is lost - but it's a real yuppie dilemma, how do we celebrate the borough's unique history but still live in our "racially chic, chicly radically" condos. Then again, I think a lot of current material written about New York summons some golden age that never really existed. It reminds me of the 20s and 50s expat American writers, lamenting some epic recent past but smug in obse ...more
Feb 22, 2013 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Given that I live in and love Brooklyn, I loved this book. The essays are all beautiful in their different styles - each reflecting a contemporary take on life in Brooklyn, but with an eye toward what it has been before. I want to give this book to people who don't know what Brooklyn is like: this huge city with more trees and air than in Manhattan, with cultures clashing, coexisting, and commingling, with room and time to raise a family in sight of the City of Dreamers. Plus, the short pieces a ...more
Apr 22, 2011 Chad rated it liked it
I enjoyed these essays only I wish there was a broader range of Brooklyn represented. Most of the essays are center in an around my neighborhood. Carroll Gardens, Boreum Hill, Cobble Hill, Fort Greene and Brooklyn Heights. Which is why I bought it. Why is this? cause this is where all these others live so this is there experience of Brooklyn. It begs the question do authors live elsewhere in Brooklyn? Sorry Sunset Park, Sorry Bay Ridge, Sorry East New York Sorry, Ditmas Park.
Mar 29, 2008 Emily rated it liked it
Fun read for anyone who lives in brooklyn, or has lived in brooklyn or knows anything about brooklyn. Just cool to read well written essays about people's relationships with their neighborhoods (so I guess a fun read for non-brooklinites too). For the record I fall into the "knows anything about brooklyn category"--I am only living here for three months and while I look forward to returning, I know I don't have my brooklyn cred yet.
Apr 05, 2009 Gina rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
These essays about Brooklyn contain some of the best writing I've read in years. There were about three clunkers (and by such big names! I'm referring to you, Jonathan Lethem, and you, Katie Roiphe), but by and large I found myself caressing the pages as I read, which is what I do when I like a book. Don't you?

Jennifer Egan and Bill Styron's daughter Alexandra just knocked their essays out of the park.
Jun 19, 2008 Rose rated it it was ok
picked up at park slope bookshop and was mostly mindless reading on the train (into and out of brooklyn of course). not terribly thrilled by any of the stories, thou i do love the one about brighton beach being more russian than russia. mostly this is the brooklyn of marrieds and people with babies, and not hipsters drinking all night. really thoug, im somewhere in between these two brooklyns aren't i?
Jan 25, 2010 Lisa rated it really liked it
A series of essays about my home borough of Brooklyn by a great list of local authors. It's a book about immigration, neighborhoods, and roots both old and new. A lot of it is touched by a certain "I was here before it was cool" nostalgia, and the specter of gentrification looms in the background constantly, but it's still a great and very human series of stories about the borough I love best.
Elizabeth Bradley
Oct 04, 2008 Elizabeth Bradley rated it really liked it
highly recommend. Atmospheric without being cloying, perhaps b/c the writers have a healthy degree of ambivalence - - and historical perspective - - about the task at hand. How can you claim to know a place that is constantly in flux? What is the danger of selective nostalgia? Particularly liked Susan Choi's entry - anyone a fan of her work, and can offer a rec?

Aug 16, 2008 Carey rated it really liked it
Fantastic collection of personal/humourous/historical stories. Perhaps not as much if you do not have the same relationship with the borough as I do. But if you want to learn about the origin of the New York Egg Cream, hear about the last authentic seltzer water delivery, and see Brooklyn through so many eyes of the past, then definitely read this.
Jun 24, 2008 Amy rated it really liked it
There are some very enjoyable essays in this book. I especially liked the Jennifer Egan essay about reading WWII love letters (the author's a great character), and the Steinke essay about Prospect Park, and the Susan Choi essay about a playground in Clinton Hill, and Lopate's introduction. It's a fun read, having just moved to Brooklyn.
May 16, 2008 Erica rated it it was ok
As with any collection, some of the essays are good and some are boring. The ones that I liked were mostly from writers I already knew I liked, such as Darcey Steinke and Darin Strauss (my college writing teacher). It was pleasant and would make a nice gift (I got it as a birthday gift), but it was nothing earth-shattering.
Nov 24, 2010 Lisa rated it it was ok
One "My parents/grandparents lived in Brooklyn and had a hard time, and wanted my parents/me to get out - and they/I did - but guess what! I live here now and I like it, and I will ruminate on the cycles of history while I walk through Prospect Park with my kid in his Baby Bjorn" essay would have been enough.
May 08, 2008 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those of us who love the BK
The book was originally written as a fundraiser for Develop Don't Destroy (I'm pretty sure), and so I thought it would be a bunch of rants about Atlantic Yards. But it's really a collection of essays about Brooklyn experiences, some of which are really beautiful. Made me appreciate and love my borough even more!
Picked this up at the Strand a few weeks back for some quick reading in between books for grad school. I've only read a few so far, but they've been fairly worthwhile. I actually enjoyed the introduction quite a bit, which is usually a good sign and I'm a sucker for anything Brooklyn-esque.
A nice collection of essays about living in Brooklyn and the importance of the location to different stages in the writer's life. I particularly enjoyed Elizabeth Gaffney's essay about the Brooklyn sewers and Rachel Cline's depiction of the old pool at the St. George's Hotel.
Oct 21, 2008 Tom rated it liked it
A nice read especially for anyone who lived in and loved Brooklyn. Each story/essay pays tribute to the borough in so many different ways and a number of the stories/essays are really beautifully written (Jennifer Egan and Robert Sullivan's were my favorites).
Aug 26, 2009 Mike rated it really liked it
Like any collection, hit and miss. The hits were anything that involved history: the story of a woman at the brooklyn navy yards, the story involving manhole covers.
The misses were mostly just dull, or in some cases too experimental.
Melissa Herder
Jul 13, 2011 Melissa Herder rated it really liked it
incredible. i learned more about various brooklyn neighborhoods than i ever thought i'd know - and it's a great piece of history! the contributors are true artists. i think i'll start reading it from the start again soon.
Paul Jellinek
May 31, 2013 Paul Jellinek rated it liked it
A mixed bag of essays about Brooklyn by a mixed bag of Brooklyn-based writers. Some are quite good but others feel like they were phoned at the last minute. Fun for anyone who's into what it is that makes Brooklyn Brooklyn.
Oct 03, 2011 Jaime rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Everyone who has lived or does live in Brooklyn should read this book. A great group of essays spanning time, neighborhood and characters. I will be giving this as a gift to friends who move to New York's greatest bourough.
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