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Book review: Rashidah Ismaili's Lower East Side

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‘Autobiography of the Lower East Side’ by Rashidah Ismaili

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Autobiography of the Lower East Side’ by Rashidah Ismaili, a novel told in short stories, takes place in New York during the late 1950s and the iconic decade that follows. These stories tap into the jazz and theater scenes while addressing abuse, addiction, interracial relationships, and the tension surrounding the Vietnam draft.

Ismaili’s poetic language comes to life as vividly painted images offer not mere setting, but infuse life into the story: “The streets are deadly silent. Not the quiet that comes in early fall and winter when folks rush in and out of the cold that whips so mercilessly around brick buildings and gray pavements.”

The sights, sounds, and smells of New York streets and nooks and crannies weave with sensory detail amid the textures of time and place. Every bit of dialogue has a true-to-life cadence that creates rhythm and grooves in its own right. Ismaili, a poet, dramatist, and prose writer, fuses her skills and her ear for sensory detail in this page-turning collection.

Autobiography of the Lower East Side’ by Rashidah Ismaili is published by Northampton House Press.

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