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.