Just Kids from the Bronx: Telling It the Way It Was

  • Review
By – May 19, 2015

In six­ty-two brief con­ver­sa­tion­al inter­views, essays, and an engag­ing­ly rel­e­vant map, author-pho­tog­ra­ph­er Arlene Alda (yes, she is his wife) gath­ered enough Bronx-iden­ti­fy­ing con­tem­po­raries to fill a book. In a hap­py and occa­sion­al­ly poignant col­lec­tion of rem­i­nis­cences, the twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry Bronx takes shape again in mem­o­ries of the dis­tin­guished and well-known fig­ures from the area and an extend­ed cir­cle of those who have had tan­gen­tial or inter­sect­ing rela­tion­ships with Alda, her­self Bronx-born and raised. Their ages range from 23 to 92, and their careers from pro­fes­sion­al ath­lete to physi­cian; all are enlivened by pho­tographs tak­en when they were chil­dren and teenagers.

As an oral his­to­ry of the bor­ough, the book alludes to pol­i­tics, gangs, and oth­er hall­marks, includ­ing the borough’s remark­able land­scape and cul­tur­al land­marks. In Just Kids from the Bronx, Alda cov­ers the eth­nic and cul­tur­al expe­ri­ences of Ital­ian, Irish, Jew­ish, African-Amer­i­can, Puer­to Rican, and Domini­can young­sters. She proud­ly cred­its the Bronx High School of Sci­ence for its pio­neer­ing as the first — by near­ly a quar­ter of a cen­tu­ry — co-ed high school to offer sci­ence as a spe­cial­ty. Among its grad­u­ates are eight Nobel Prize win­ners. (Alda per­son­al­ly attend­ed anoth­er Bronx high school, Evan­der Childs.)

End mat­ter includes cap­sule biogra­phies. Stand­out names include graph­ic design­er and urban plan­ner Mil­ton Glaser (of the I Love (heart) New York” logo); Reg­is Philbin; Gen­er­al Col­in Pow­ell; author Mary Hig­gins Clark; tele­vi­sion writer, actor, and come­di­an Carl Rein­er; dancer Gabrielle Sal­vat­to; Neil deGrasse Tyson, direc­tor of the Hay­den Plan­e­tar­i­um; Al Paci­no; Daniel Liebe­skind, archi­tect and plan­ner; and Sis­ter of Char­i­ty Mar­garet M. O’Brien. Those who enjoy biogra­phies, rev­el in New York City lore, are advo­cates for pub­lic edu­ca­tion, or want to inspire a lag­ging young­ster, will find much here.

Arlene B. Soifer earned degrees in Eng­lish, and has had many years of expe­ri­ence as a free­lance writer, edi­tor, and pub­lic rela­tions professional.

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