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Two Cents Plain: My Brooklyn Boyhood

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  122 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
Martin Lemelman's elegiac and bittersweet graphic memoir Two Cents Plain collects the memories and artifacts of the author's childhood in Brooklyn. The son of Holocaust survivors, Lemelman grew up in the back of his family's candy store in Brownsville during the 1950s and '60s, as the neighborhood, and much of the city, moved into a period of deep decline. In Two Cents Pla ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published August 31st 2010 by Bloomsbury USA
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I consider TWO CENTS PLAIN: MY BROOKLYN BOYHOOD (2010) an exceptionally fine example of its genre. In a tapestry of drawings, photographs, and words, Martin Lemelman offers a personal history that reveals a big and important picture. The whole comes in the size of a piece -- a real deal that is "the real deal." So I want to say that this book will be widely treasured. I want to say, "Hey, except for two three-month stays in Washington, DC, I have never lived anywhere but North Carolina." I want ...more
Becky Trombley
Jun 16, 2012 Becky Trombley rated it it was amazing
This graphic novel beautifully depicts the author's boyhood in Brooklyn. The captivating drawings, overlaid with vintage photographs, capture the essence of the time and place. Lemelman's biography also chronicles the story of his parents as young people, survivors of World War II. There are several moments in the book that leave the reader cringing in horror, as the ways that hatred did not end with the war, even in the land of promise and opportunity, are revealed.

Lemelman's story is hopeful.
Sara Habein
Jan 17, 2012 Sara Habein rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-read
Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, Martin Lemelman watched his Polish-Jewish family struggle with their new American lives running a candy shop in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. Though the shop was legendary for its ice cream, egg creams and toys, the neighborhood itself was beginning its steep decline. Young Martin (or “Mattaleh,” as his parents called him) discovered his interest in art — particularly drawing — during this time, and has since made himself a career illustrating books. Two C ...more
Feb 12, 2011 Matthew rated it really liked it
Lemelman put out a great piece of work here. Essentially a portrait of his own family through his childhood eyes, the book opens with his parents escaping from Russia just after WWII and making their way to NY City. A large portion of the book focuses on their adjusting and adapting to a new way of life while still trying to hold onto a sense of their Jewish and Russian heritage. His father tries a few occupations and finally ends up owning and managing a small candy story in the Brownsville ...more
Niki Sorensen
Oct 13, 2010 Niki Sorensen rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
When someone asks you if you could pick any person in the world to meet, who would you choose? Usually the person is someone famous. Me, I'd like to sit down and have a chat with Martin Lemelman's mama.

Two Cents Plain is a beautiful graphic novel. I loved it. It was a unique way to learn just a little bit about the life of Jewish immigrants in the 50's and 60's. How they survived the Holocaust is a miracle.

I wish this book could be mandatory reading for high school students. I learned so much
MyACPL Athens County Public Libraries
from Todd:

If anyone tells you that graphic novels could never reach the level of the literary, this is a case in point to the contrary, though it is not a novel per se, but a memoir. What one immediately realizes upon reading this account, is that there is no way all that the author communicates could be possibly conveyed without the visuals -- though the textual content is tellingly deployed and is as dynamic as the illustrations. The illustrations themselves are mixed media: actual cut-away ph
Dani Peloquin
May 11, 2012 Dani Peloquin rated it really liked it
As I have started before, there has been a surge in graphic memoirs in the past few years. Some have excelled while there have certainly been some who have failed. Martin Lemelman's memoir "Two Cents Plain" falls somewhere in the middle.

Lemelman focuses on his childhood growing up in Brooklyn and the changes that the community undergoes from the 1950s to the 1960s. Additionally, he details his relationship with his parents and their experiences as Holocaust survivors in America. The story is bit
Sep 19, 2010 Susan rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of graphic novels, memoirs, the good ol' days
Recommended to Susan by: goodreads
I can't help but love this book dearly. Narratively speaking, I think it has some issues; the chapters don't always flow together very smoothly and the build-up to the last event is rather anti-climactic and well, almost non-existent.

On the very simplest of levels, the narrative reminded me of William Goyen's House of Breath. Obviously the two are executed in very different ways, but both employ very distinct voices of the "ghosts" of the past, stemming from a return to the narrator's hometown
Sep 20, 2010 Riv rated it really liked it
I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway (yay, I won something!!) not even knowing what it was (I just tried to avoid the vampire/bodice ripper looking ones they were offering).

Never having been a fan of comic books, I never picked up a graphic novel before. This is a graphic memoir, the story of Martin Lemelman's childhood in Brownsville, Brooklyn told in hand-drawn story boards. He describes his parents' escape from the Nazis and Soviet army respectively, after the war, and their meeting in a
Mike Aragona
Mar 23, 2011 Mike Aragona rated it liked it
Shelves: all
As much as I found the storytelling intriguing (due to the mix-and-match of old photographs and trinkets along with the actual drawn pencils) I had a hard time really getting into this biography.[return][return]I'm not certain if the message or stories would have been more powerful had the point of view not shifted back and forth from that of the narrator to his mother to his father and back again. In too many instances, those shifts took me "out" of the story - as much from the fact that they ...more
Sep 24, 2010 Joy rated it really liked it
I received this book from GoodReads firstbook giveaway. It was very good timing, as I have just moved to NYC, and this book is about growing up in Brooklyn. This is the first graphic novel I have read, but I believe it is probably quite different from most graphic novels. Since this is biography, there are some photos, although most are drawings, but they are depicting the childhood of the author. He takes us through his parents getting out of Europe after the Nazis, and through his childhood in ...more
Sep 26, 2010 Amy rated it it was amazing
I have to admit that I was a little bit skeptical of this book when I first got it. This was my first graphic novel, and I have to say that I loved it. I am a very visual person and the integration of drawings and photographs added so much to the story.

The book tells the story of the authors life growing up in Brooklyn. Lemelman also tells a brief history of his parents life in and their experiences as Jews during the nazi occupation, and then their journey to America.

Lemelman has a way of reall
Nov 07, 2012 Amanda rated it liked it
Shelves: race
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 24, 2010 Jami rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
I received a copy of the book from the publisher based on my entry in a contest through Goodreads. This was the first graphic novel I have read. It is a fascinating method for a memoir, which Lemelman successfully utilizes.

Lemelman provides a moving account of the everyday lives of Jewish immigrants from the 1950-70's. He captured not only his own personal story, but that of his family members and neighbors. I could hear the different voices of the people in his Brooklyn childhood, especially h
Emilia P
Aug 22, 2016 Emilia P rated it really liked it
Shelves: comic-books
I didn't think this book would amount to much, and it's only sort of a graphic novel, more of a high-art picture book, with good narration and intricate, beautiful illustration -- the deeply felt and often dark story of growing up Jewish mid-century in the mean streets of Brooklyn, and watching his neighborhood change from a Jewish enclave to a Puerto Rican and black neighborhood. The thing I appreciated most about this was how he navigated the tension between his parents being hardworking and ...more
Jan 06, 2012 Gloria rated it really liked it
I must say that this graphic novel is quite spectacular. I think Lemelson did a great job with the art, and the vignettes are quite moving. If anything, the narrative arc overall is a bit choppy, the ending rather abrupt after the climatic vignette. But overall well worth the time reading and looking.

And his four sons are lucky to have this book.

Some great Yiddish sayings from the book:
Everything revolves around bread and death (Allis drait arum broit un toit).
And: Life is the biggest bargain
Aug 30, 2016 Brian rated it really liked it
In this graphic novel, we are told the history of one family that grew up in Brooklyn. Martin's parents were both involved in World War II and they lost many family members to the Holocaust. When they settle down in Brooklyn, Martin's father opens a candy store that sells a lot of different items. The book tells little anecdotes about Martin and his parents who are both quirky, stern but loving people. This book was a very quick read and I was able to finish it in an evening. I enjoyed the ...more
I really enjoyed the drawings and the photos in this book. Lemelman did a fantastic job drawing me into the story, I especially enjoyed how well he got into the stories of his mother and father. However, considering that the premise of this novel was supposed to be about his childhood, I felt like Lemelman himself was really left out of the story. I would have liked to see more about him and his own memories of growing up. The story was interesting and engaging, but I felt like it just kind of ...more
Laura Cushing
Oct 28, 2011 Laura Cushing rated it it was amazing
A truly stunning graphic novel with excellent black and white drawings, photographs, and collages. The narrative is very personal and it's easy to feel like a part of the Lemelmen family as you read about their struggles in Brooklyn. Martin's parents are Holocaust survivors, and when they make a life for themselves and have a family in America, there are still some Old World customs they can't quite leave behind them. And around them, America is changing - the neighborhood that started out a ...more
Dec 10, 2010 Lori rated it really liked it
I have never read a comic book in my life and I thought that's what this was going to be. I was very wrong. It was a beautifully illustrated memior of a boy growing up in Brooklyn. It was told in a very heart-felt manner about a young Jewsih boy being raised by his parents that had escaped the Nazis. The parents came to America to make a better life for themselves. The book focused on how the cultures and customs here were very different. The culture clash was evident in the experiences the ...more
Mar 31, 2015 Greg rated it liked it
Lemelman's drawings and design are really spectacular and draw you into the story which is completely about being a certain place. Perhaps it is unfair to compare to Mendel's Daughter because of the different topics but this wasn't nearly as interesting to me. The experience of Jews growing up in New York mid- to late-20th century is not novel to me and so, while I found it well done, I didn't take much from it personally.
Oct 22, 2011 Twan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comics
This is a great little book. A autobiographical memoir about the author's Jewish upbringing in New York after his parents set up shop there after surviving the holocaust. Sounds fun, eh? Well, it is you filthy animals. The artwork on the other hand leaves a bit to be desired, all done in pencil and quite basic at times but it is helped along by photos which are added like collages. Funny, sad and I will buy his other book on the strength of this.
Sep 02, 2011 Patty rated it it was amazing
Had never read a graphic novel, but found this title searching memoirs- and discovered it was an illustrated one! Gave it a try and loved it- a quarter of the way in you forget you're looking at illustrations while you read, your brain just integrates the two, text and drawings- just like in a subtitled film. I love reading memoirs of the 40's and 50's, especially those of New York Jewish families (don't ask me why, I'm United Methodist, go figure).
May 27, 2011 Heather rated it liked it
I really liked the storytelling here, and it was an exceptionally easy read because of the pictures. However, I wonder if it would be enjoyable to older readers because of the pictures. I was going to buy it for my dad, who grew up in Brooklyn in the 1940s and 1950s, but I don't think he'd really love the picture aspect. The story was touching and well-written; it made me miss my grandparents very much.
Dec 25, 2014 Jeff rated it it was amazing
As someone who also grew up in Broolyn neighborhoods, this book was an incredible nostalgic trip into the culture and chaos of those times. I envy him his memory and the rich history he has of his parents. It was a quick read but as a graphic memoir, it was a perfect combination of images and words. I'd recommend it to anyone who grew up in the boroughs of New York City - so much you'll recognize if not about the characters then about yourself.
Lori Stabile
Sep 15, 2010 Lori Stabile rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading Two Cents Plain. The book introduced me to a world I would never have known existed had I not read it. I loved the Yiddish sayings that appeared throughout the book, as well as the fantastic illustrations. I think it only added to the uniqueness of the book. I look forward to reading another book by Martin Lemelman.
Oct 05, 2010 Rosa rated it really liked it
What a wonderful surprise this book turned out to be. Since this book deals with Holocaust survivors I was expecting a difficult read and while Martin Lemelman's childhood wasn't idyllic it was filled with love, interesting times and interesting people. The author is a talented writer but it was his wonderful drawings and photographs that brought the book to life for me.
Feb 16, 2011 Amy rated it it was amazing
I hated for this book to end. I loved the drawing style and the frankness of Lemelman in his story telling. I am even going to send my 65 year old mom (who lives in Brooklyn) a copy. I don't think she has ever read a graphic novel but I suspect that she's like this one.
Jun 16, 2011 Becky rated it it was amazing
Martin is an excellent story teller and a gifted artist. The pictures take you back to an earlier time and bring back memories of toys and games, sights and scenes from childhood. I enjoyed his first book as well, and there is another book in the works.
Sep 23, 2010 Janet rated it really liked it
I loved this! very unusual- story of a young man's growing up in brooklyn- in graphic style . Tells the story of his parents growing up in Poland, coming to AMerica and life in Brooklyn . Very unusual book but worth reading. Tears in my eyes!
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