City of Grit and Gold

Maud Macro­ry Powell

  • Review
By – June 22, 2017

In City of Grit and Gold, Maud Macro­ry Pow­ell chron­i­cles the expe­ri­ence of twelve-year-old Addie, the youngest daugh­ter of a Ger­man Jew­ish immi­grant fam­i­ly liv­ing in 1886 Chicago.

Out­side Addie’s apart­ment, the city is in chaos. Peo­ple are riot­ing in the streets, ral­ly­ing for work­ers’ rights and labor union­iza­tion. Addie’s father, who owns a hat shop, is ardent­ly against the move­ment and fears anar­chy. How­ev­er, her beloved Uncle Chaim open­ly protests for bet­ter wages and fair­er work­days. This dis­cord caus­es fric­tion in Addie’s fam­i­ly. Her old­er sib­lings dis­agree with their father’s old coun­try” beliefs and har­bor aspi­ra­tions to live inde­pen­dent­ly; her moth­er is torn between stay­ing loy­al to her hus­band and sup­port­ing her broth­er. On the way to fetch med­i­cine for her ill cousin, Addie wit­ness­es a riot in the streets, and sees Uncle Chaim right in the mid­dle of it. Though fright­ened, Addie strug­gles to remain respect­ful of her father’s out­look while want­i­ng to stand up for what she believes is right. She begins to ques­tion author­i­ty and finds her­self par­tic­u­lar­ly involved when Uncle Chaim goes into hid­ing. After she wit­ness­es the harsh con­di­tions of child sweat­shop work­ers (includ­ing one who is grave­ly injured) Addie ques­tions her place in the city and her plans for the future. She won­ders, Where do I fit into this great city of grit and gold, ill­ness and adventure?”

Pow­ell weaves in details of the Hay­mar­ket Affair (a ral­ly which result­ed in a bomb explo­sion and sev­er­al deaths), includ­ing the impact it has on Chicago’s immi­grant com­mu­ni­ty and the dev­as­tat­ing effect it has on Addie’s family.

Fea­tur­ing pow­er­ful descrip­tions and emo­tion­al­ly charged cir­cum­stances, City of Grit and Gold presents a dif­fi­cult time in Amer­i­can his­to­ry. Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 9 and up.

Jil­lian Bietz stud­ied library tech­nol­o­gy and research skills and cur­rent­ly works in the library sys­tem. She is a book review­er for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and Kirkus Review Indie. Jil­lian lives in South­ern California.

Discussion Questions