Boogaloo on Second Avenue by Mark Kurlansky - review by Lucy Beresford

Lucy Beresford

A Taste of New York

Boogaloo on Second Avenue


Jonathan Cape 319pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

This is the story of a Manhattan neighbourhood during the sweltering summer of 1988. While Jay McInerney captured something of the essence of 1980s New York in such books as Brights Lights, Big City (1985) and Brightness Falls (1992) by presenting a particular point of view (that of the yuppies), Mark Kurlansky gives voice to those who at the time remained largely voiceless in fiction (other than as foils to the glamour explored elsewhere), namely the immigrant population of, in this case, Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Yet although Kurlansky’s characters inhabit a compact geographical space (no more than a handful of streets, some famously denoted merely by letters of the alphabet rather than street names), he renders their interior landscape rich and compelling. 

His émigrés are a mixed bunch: three generations of Jewish Seltzers and their Mexican in-law, three rival Sicilian shopkeepers, a Dominican drug dealer who metamorphoses into an all-American greengrocer, a family of German bakers, and an East Harlem musician famous worldwide for his 1960s hit ‘The Yiddish Boogaloo’. Koreans and

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