Jennifer Ridgway's Reviews > Tales of Two Cities: The Best and Worst of Times in Today’s New York

Tales of Two Cities by John   Freeman
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The Many Faces of NYC: Tales of Two Cities by John Freeman

New York City: If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. The glam, the glitz, the money, the power. This is certainly not how the majority of New Yorkers live. There are multitudes barely scraping by -- living in homeless shelters or on the street, in apartments with sleazy landlords doing their best to get them out to make room for renters who will pay more money. As Mayor deBlasio has said, there are two New York Cities, although I would argue that two is simplifying too much. John Freeman might agree with me, as he has brought together thirty essays and short stories by some of today's leading literati in his anthology Tales of Two Cities: The Best and Worst of Times in Today's New York.

NYC's income inequality has been getting worse over the years. In Manhattan, the top five percent earn eighty-eight times (yes: eighty-eight times) more than the bottom twenty percent; with a poverty rate of twenty-one percent, it has the widest income gap in the country. However, we do not often hear about or from these citizens as they struggle to put food on the table and a roof over their children's heads. In fact, Freeman's brother lived in a homeless shelter while he was living in NYC; Freeman talks about this in his introduction to the collection, and his brother contributes an essay about it.

In addition to helping to expose some of these stories, there are also stories of everyday New Yorkers and everyday lives. For all the references that most of America sees of New York (galas at the Met, movie premieres, hipsters, artsy Bohemians), the majority of us are living regular lives. Meeting up with friends for drinks and dinner, commuting to jobs, raising families. There is no denying that the set-up of the city leads to differences in how we live. We literally live on top of and below our neighbors and get to work on crowded subways; we thus become acquainted with our neighbors in a way that many others don't. As Hannah Tinti describes in her essay, we can both know a lot and know nothing about the people we see daily. We also walk more, which can be both aggravating and eye-opening. Garnette Cadogan, who moved to the city as a casualty of Hurricane Katrina, describes how he learned about the city and its people through his walks.

Everyone has a story to tell. Freeman's collection sheds light on what could be argued is the real New York City.
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Reading Progress

August 20, 2015 – Started Reading
August 21, 2015 – Shelved
August 21, 2015 – Shelved as: 2015
August 21, 2015 – Shelved as: nonfiction
August 25, 2015 – Finished Reading

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