In 1913, little Malka Treynovsky flees Russia with her family. Bedazzled by tales of gold and movie stardom, she tricks them into buying tickets for America. Yet no sooner do they land on the squalid Lower East Side of Manhattan, than Malka is crippled and abandoned in the street.
Taken in by a tough-loving Italian ices peddler, she manages to survive through cunning and inventiveness. As she learns the secrets of his trade, she begins to shape her own destiny. She falls in love with a gorgeous, illiterate radical named Albert, and they set off across America in an ice cream truck. Slowly, she transforms herself into Lillian Dunkle, "The Ice Cream Queen" -- doyenne of an empire of ice cream franchises and a celebrated television personality.
Lillian's rise to fame and fortune spans seventy years and is inextricably linked to the course of American history itself, from Prohibition to the disco days of Studio 54. Yet Lillian Dunkle is nothing like the whimsical motherly persona she crafts for herself in the media. Conniving, profane, and irreverent, she is a supremely complex woman who prefers a good stiff drink to an ice cream cone. And when her past begins to catch up with her, everything she has spent her life building is at stake.
Susan Jane Gilman’s new novel, “Donna Has Left the Building” will be published in June 2019. She is also the bestselling author of three nonfiction books “Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress,” “Undress me in the Temple of Heaven,” and “Kiss My Tiara," as well as the novel, "The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street." She's provided commentary for National Public Radio. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan, and has written for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and Ms. magazine, among others. Her fiction and essays have received several literary awards.