Delia swabbed the rag across the floor, squeezed it out and plunked it back into the bucket. The long sleeve she had rolled up to her elbow came loose and flopped into the dirty water. The workhouse dress was way too big, and the coarse, gray flannel fabric, thick and heavy. Once your sleeves and hem got wet you would feel like you were dragging iron weights around all day. The worst thing about Blackwell’s Island, she decided, was being wet. Being tired and hungry was nothing new, but she would never get used to being soaked through to the skin. Every job they gave her to do, in the kitchen, the laundry, or scrubbing the endless brick corridors, involved cold water and left her dripping from her scalp to her feet. For the entire two weeks she had been here, she had never felt completely dry. Not once.
She wrung the rag out again. It wasn’t as if all this scrubbing was ever going to get anything clean. The water in the bucket was as filthy as the floor itself. She thought about how her mother used to scrub out the entire flat before Pasach each year when she was a little girl. All the other women in the neighborhood scrubbed too, till you could almost believe the entire city smelled of hot soap, starch, and vinegar, and everything would always stay pure and clean. Up and down the stairs, you would hear women scrubbing and singing. Without thinking Delia started to hum.
“Can it, will ya?” The girl behind her slapped her rag on the stones.
Nobody sang as they worked on Blackwell’s Island. Not ever.
When they were done with the floors, the matron took them to the laundry where they labored for hours bent over zinc tubs. Again, a little absent minded melody began to form on Delia’s lips. This time she shut her mouth without being told...
All the city’s charity hospitals sent their linen to be scrubbed on Blackwell’s island, the other girls said. As Delia wrung out sheet after sheet, the water became rust colored with blood. Bandages unraveled, letting loose clots and lumps of mucus that made her shudder. She couldn’t bear it any longer. She lifted her hands and examined palms, so red, raw and wrinkled, they scarcely seemed human anymore. All around her girls kept scrubbing, plunging their arms elbow deep into the bloody water as if it were harmless as cold tea. The rubber-soled shoes of the matron squeaked behind her. Swiftly she thrust her hands back in.
“You.” The matron laid a heavy hand on her shoulder. “Com’ on wit me.” Delia turned and followed, wiping her hands on her skirt. Her throat constricted with terror. She had heard that there were places on Blackwell’s Island no one ever came back from. All she had done was sing a bit, she wanted to tell the matron. But she wouldn’t have been able to get the words out, even if speaking were permitted.
The matron only took her to the kitchen, though. Delia had worked in the kitchen before and it was no better or worse than anyplace else. She looked around swiftly. If she had the chance, she’d steal a chunk of bread, no matter how hard or moldy it might be.
“You help her.” The matron gave Delia a shove towards a big sink where a girl stood scrubbing pots with what almost seemed deliberate and insolent slowness. “Go on. Watcha waiting for?”
Delia had to catch herself before she went sprawling. Cautiously, she approached the side of the sink where the dishes were rinsed. The water was filled with globs of greasy suet and the bodies of dead vermin. She lifted a dish out and stacked it gingerly on the iron grate beside her.
“What you so scared of?” The girl turned towards her, studying Delia intensely. She scrutinized Delia’s face, craning her neck sideways to get a look at the stray curls of hair that had escaped from the workhouse kerchief they all wore. “What’s the matter? Ain’t I a Christian as good as you?”
“No. I mean yes.” Delia was didn’t know how to reply. She pushed the rebellious locks of hair back beneath the kerchief. ‘No’ would mean that she didn’t think this girl was as good as she, yet ‘yes’ might imply that she, herself was Christian, which was not true. “I mean...”
Delia shook her head.
“Cause I’ve seen some Italians dark like you.”
“What do you mean?” Delia was startled by the word ‘dark.’
“See.” The girl held her arm out. Delia hesitated, then placed her own forearm next to it. She had seen people like this girl, the people Americans called Negroes, from a distance when she was camping on Washington Heights. They had kept mostly to themselves there. On Blackwell’s Island everyone kept to themselves. Jews, Irish, Italians, Poles, and Negros, all formed their own work groups. Everyone stayed with their own kind. No one mixed, as far a Delia knew.
As they compared their arms. Delia tried to think of the right way to describe the colors. Most of the words that came to her made her stomach rumble. Her neighbor’s arm was similar to the ginger cake that was baked on Hanukah. Her own arm, to her surprise, was not much lighter, perhaps like molasses taffy. She swallowed hungrily.
The matron paced behind them. Instantly they put their arms back into the water.
“So if you ain’t Italian what are you?” the girl whispered.
Delia took a deep breath. “I am a Jew.”
“Whatever that is, they don’t like you.”
The girl tilted her head almost imperceptibly towards the matron.
Delia panicked. What did this girl know that she didn’t? Except for being brought to the kitchen this moment, she had not been singled out in any special way. “I didn’t make trouble,” she insisted.
“They made you work with me, didn’t they? So you must have done something,” the girl insisted. “You’re a foreigner,” she added.
“No.” In Delia’s world a foreigner was someone straight off Ellis Island, someone who didn’t speak a word of English and got lost in New York City. Delia had not been born in America, but New York was her only home. She and her friends who had grown up in the city spoke English among themselves almost as easily as they spoke Yiddish. “I mean, I am not foreign the way foreigners are foreign.”
“I hate foreigners. All of them.” The girl didn’t sound as if she hated Delia at that particular moment. She just said it the way she might comment that her feet ached, her back was sore and the front of her dress, soaking wet. It was just the truth, that’s all. “I had a job,” she continued. “In a mattress factory over in Brooklyn. I was good at it too. The fastest one in the shop. Sixty-five cents for every mattress I finished stuffing. If I stayed till nine every night, I could take home nearly fifteen dollars a week. Then one day I come in and there’s this girl in my place. I tell her to move and she says something in gibberish. So I take her arm to pull her away and the boss tells me to leave her alone cause she working for thirty-five cents and I can stay if I’ll take thirty-five cents too. Thirty-five cents for spending three hours stuffing and sewing one of those big mattresses. That’s the limit. I tell the girl to take her thirty-five cents and get right back out on the street. This is a sixty-five cents shop, I say, and make no mistake about it. Well, she starts crying in foreign gibberish, so I just drag her to the door and the devil breaks loose. Everyone is screaming and kicking and the next thing I know I’m in jail and the judge is sending me to Blackwell’s Island. All because some girl told the boss she’d work for thirty-five cents and I wanted my sixty five.”
“In our shops, when the boss tries to give our jobs away to others, we kick and keep on kicking.”
“What the hell do you think I did? I kicked and kicked good. And look where it got me.”
“We all kick together,” Delia forgot that she wasn’t trying to make trouble. “We have a union. If the bosses short our pay, we all walk out and we won’t let him bring anyone else in to work in our place. We stand on the street and block their way. We drag them away from the door so the bosses will have no business until they all do what we say.”
“So if you can do all that and get away with it how come you’re here?”
“Because...” Delia knew that the walk-outs and strikes did not always work out the way she described. It was easy to talk about how things should be, harder to say how they actually were.
“Ain’t that the two dollar question.” The girl went on scrubbing. She handed the pot over to Delia to rinse, no cleaner than when it went into the slimy water.
“It’s because the union is not strong yet. Many girls are afraid.” Delia felt her voice come back to her. The one she used in meetings, on the streets, and in the cafes, talking and arguing for hours among her friends. “Someday we will all walk out. We will have a big strike, a general strike. All the shops will be closed. Every shop in the city. All the girls will come out, and the men too. Hundreds of us, thousands. No one will dare cross out picket lines to work in the shops. That’s what the union will do.” She rinsed the pot and set in on the rack with such a bang they both froze for a moment.
“The matrons wear those rubber soled shoes so they can sneak up on you,” the girl whispered.
“Those are the worst.”
“So how come no one’s told me about this union of yours. How do I get in?”
Delia was stumped. What if this girl came to a meeting? Well, why shouldn’t she? The union was for everyone, wasn’t it? No, Delia had to admit, not always. Few Italian girls joined and when they did they complained that the Jews ran everything. ‘Why should you always tell us what we should do,’ they asked. ‘We know more about unions than you,’ the Jews replied. ‘Why shouldn’t we lead?’ Nobody trusted the few Irish girls who worked in the shops because their brothers and fathers might be among the police. And Americans were only welcome if they brought money. Pamela tried to fit in, but many people only treated her politely only because she was Delia’s friend and her father was rich.
“Uh huh. Just what I thought,” the girl said, as if Delia had been thinking out loud.
That seemed to end the conversation. They worked side by side without speaking and Delia almost began to wish she were back in the laundry.
Delia wasn’t quite sure she heard right because the girl did not so much sing, as breathe the word out. “Oh freedom…” A tune emerged very faintly like a secret. This girl knew how to sing, almost without moving her lips.
“Oh freedom over me.” She ignored Delia as she sang.
Delia stepped an inch or to closer to listen, keeping her eyes on her own work.
“Before I’d be a slave, I be buried in my grave Go home to my people and be free.”
The girl sang softly to herself, as if Delia wasn’t there.
“Home to my people and be free.”
When she stopped, Delia said nothing for a few moments, thinking about home. Home to my people.... “Did your mama teach you that song?” she asked, by which she meant it was a fine song, though she didn’t say so directly.
“My momma taught me a lot of songs.”
“Where was she from, your mama?”
“Carolina,” Delia repeated. She liked the word. It was a soft and gentle and sounded like someplace very, very far away. “Where is it, this Carolina?”
Delia tried to remember the big map she had seen when she was a little girl in school. “In the United States of America?”
“Of course in America. Where else?”
“Oh.” So this girl was an American daughter born of an American mother. A native-born American. Something everyone in the Lower East Side hoped their grandchildren would be. Yet she didn’t claim it as if it were something special. She didn’t talk being American with pride. When she sang about home and freedom, maybe she wasn’t singing about America, or at least not the America Delia knew.
Before they could speak again, they heard the matron approach.
“Any trouble?” She paced up and down behind them.
‘Because I don’t want any trouble. Understand?” The matron stopped and stood only inches behind them, nearly touching their backs. “Understand?”
They both knew sensed from the way she kept saying “trouble” that she was actually disappointed none had broken out in her absence. She had sent Delia here, expecting something to happen and nothing did. Delia and the girl glanced at each other sidewise. They had managed to trick the matron without even trying.
Abruptly, the matron escorted Delia back to the laundry room.
They never worked together after that. They each kept to their own and didn’t even acknowledge the other when they passed in the dining hall. It was almost as if they had never spoken at all.
More Jewish girls began to arrive on Blackwell’s Island. Strikes had broken out throughout the city, they said. Everywhere you went, girls had walked out of the factories. There would be a general strike soon. Six hundred shops or more would close.
The general strike at last, and here I am, thought Delia, stuck on Blackwell’s Island. What good did she do the union here? She looked around at the walls of the dining hall. She could not even gaze with longing towards the city, because she had no real idea what direction that would be. No one knew exactly where Blackwell’s Island was. People were taken there in the middle of the night. Some girls said it was not even part of America, but some other country entirely, some place like Russia, completely against the Jews.
“Why else would they expect us to eat this?” One of the girls complained as she sat down at the long dining table. Everything on their tin plates was swimming in pork gravy.
“We cannot swallow this.” They turned towards Delia, quite naturally, as if they expected her to do something about it.
The matron standing next to the wall nearest their table was new and young, almost a girl herself . Unlike the others she often smiled at the prisoners when they passed her.
Delia picked up her plate very carefully with both hands and walked up to her. “Please, ma’am.”
“Yes?” The matron looked at Delia attentively, as she was actually interested in what Delia had to say.
“Please,” Delia lifted the plate slightly. “We cannot eat this. We tell them no pork, but today the women in the kitchen cover everything in gravy.”
“Oh, don’t worry. The gravy may not look appetizing. But it is perfectly edible. I can guarantee it. I tasted it myself.”
“No, you don’t understand. We are Jews.”
The woman smiled and shook her head. She didn’t understand.
“We cannot eat pork meat.” Delia tried to speak evenly. “Not this. “ Oh freedom over me... The song came back to her. “We scrub the floors, wash the linens, and rinse the pots. We scrub all that filth.” She could feel herself becoming more agitated. “But we cannot eat trief. This,” she raised the plate to eye-level, “is trief. Unclean.” She took a deep breath to calm herself. It was too late. Someone jostled her elbow, whether by design or by accident, she would never know. It was a small movement, yet it sent the plate flying. Gravy splattered over the young matron’s face. As the tin plate clattered to the floor, Delia stood there dumbfounded. “I am so sorry, bitte, please…” She was slammed headfirst into the wall. The force of the impact stunned and blinded her. She sank to her knees.
A thick hand grabbed the back of her neck and hoisted her up, shaking her as if she were no bigger than a child. But she wasn’t a child anymore. No one had the right to treat her like this. She twisted around and flung herself against the arm attached to the hand. The arm jerked and flopped beneath her weight. Blows came from above and behind. Another hand clapped over her mouth, smearing her face with gravy and blood.
The walls of the small room were lined with cold gray tiles. There was a metal grate in the center of the floor and above her Delia saw single electric bulb dangling from a long string. She was dimly aware that she was naked. The workhouse uniform and baggy underclothes had been peeled from her so quickly she thought parts of her skin had gone with them. Raw welts stung her arms, her back, her legs. She shivered uncontrollably, pressing herself into a corner and wrapping her arms around her knees. Was this what it was like to die? They had locked her in her to die without even a rag, a thread to cover herself. She was absolutely alone.
Then the first blast of water hit her. It came in a great ice-cold jet, powerful as a club. She opened her mouth to scream but no sound emerged. She writhed and turned, crawled on her hands and knees, curled herself into a ball. The water followed her relentlessly, like a dog pouncing on rat. She felt like she was drowning. Desperately, she sucked in air. Water shot up her nose and surged down her throat. She was plastered against the wall, the water leaving no part of her untouched. Then it stopped. As suddenly as it had started, the water was gone.
Slowly, she lowered her arms her sides heaving. A small, strange groan escaped from her, just a croak. A door opened, she heard footsteps, the familiar squeak of rubber soled shoes.
“Eh?” Someone grunted.
She forced herself to look. The electric bulb swung back and forth overhead. In the little circle of wobbling light, a monstrous figure, covered from shoulder to knee in a back rubber apron, loomed in front of her. It was impossible to tell if it was a man or a woman because it had no face she could recognize. The head was encased in a skin tight rubber helmet, hiding every strand of hair, and the eyes concealed behind a pair of thick, round goggles. All she could see was a reddish pink chin and a thin, nearly lipless mouth.
“Eh.” The mouth grinned. “Give it to her again.”
The water hurled itself at Delia, fiercer than before. She locked her arms around her knees and buried her head in her arms. The water beat and beat on her until she couldn’t feel a thing.
When she woke she was lying in a bed, the sheet tucked so tightly around her she could hardly move. A wall of muslin curtains on either side cut off her view. She heard a few voices murmuring and the creaking wheels of a cart. Otherwise it was quiet.
Her arms ached, but she could feel them. And her feet. She spread her fingers against the mattress. It hurt to move, but at least she could feel something. A woman in a nurse’s apron and cap appeared with a bowl of soup.
“Wide awake, are we dearie?” She folded back the sheet and helped Delia sit up. Delia discovered she was wearing a white cotton nightdress. It was too big at the top and flopped open over her breasts. She tried to cover herself but there were no buttons or drawstring. She clutched the cloth together with one hand.
The nurse did not seem to notice. “Eat up. We don’t want you just lying around the infirmary forever, do we? Plenty of other girls will be needing that bed soon if I’m not mistaken.”
Delia let her hand drop back down. How many of these people had seen her naked, by now? She didn’t even care. Even her shame had been taken from her. She turned her face away when the nurse held out of spoon of soup.
“Beef stock,” the nurse said with satisfaction. “Bring the blood back to your cheeks.”
Beef. Delia clamped her mouth shut. “No meat,” she muttered between her teeth. Even when they said beef she knew it would cooked in pork grease.
“See here, dearie.” The nurse placed her hands on her hips. “You eat what you get here.”
“It’s all right. I’ll take over.” It was the young matron that Delia had approached with her tray. “Drink this. It’s just plain tea with milk and sugar.”
Delia took the cup from her hands and drank greedily, surprised to discover she was famished. She had wanted to die in that tiled room. Why should she ever wish to eat or drink again? Yet when the young woman gave her a slice of buttered bread, her mouth chewed and swallowed as if it had a will of it’s own. It was as if her stomach had no memory, no matter what her mind might recall.
“Why did you do it?” The young woman sat down next to Delia’s bed. She was not really a prison matron at all, she explained, but a social worker, Miss Morrison, from Hunter College. “I am making some first hand observations on prison conditions. To recommend reforms.”
Another reformer. Delia nodded. “I know reformers. And settlement workers too.” Again, she was surprised that she could speak so normally. When she thought of what had happened to her, it seemed as if she should do nothing but lay there and scream and scream. But she could not do that, even it she wanted to. She could speak, she could eat. She could look at the mild, concerned face of Miss Morrisson, nod and even smile, if she had to. The girl who had huddled in the corner of the tiled room, was a different person completely. “I did nothing,” she said. Miss Morrison had to believe her. “I mean nothing against you or anyone else here. Someone came up behind. That was what happened.”
“Yes, yes, ” Miss Morrison patted her hand. “Another matron did approach. She wanted to see what was wrong.”
“But I did nothing.” Delia started to loose control of her voice. Her words quavered and faded. “Someone...pushed me and made my hand...” She was becoming the girl in the tiled room. She couldn’t let that happen. In another instant she would start to scream and scream.
“There, there,” Miss Morrison soothed her. “Maybe you had a fit of some sort. What the doctors call a seizure. Such things are common among very excitable girls. And contagious. One girl has it and all the others will follow. There are many girls with nervous disorders here. Have you had seizures before? Do you have tremors, for instance, in your hands?”
Delia looked down at her fingers. Even now, her hands didn’t shake. She stared at them a long time. “I have good hands.” She forced herself to look Miss Morrison in the eyes. “I have good hands,” she repeated thinking of her mama’s hands and all the work they had done. “It is in my family.”
“Yes, yes,” Miss Morrison smiled. “The water treatment seems to have helped you a great deal.”
“Water...treatment...?” Delia had no idea what Miss Morrison meant. “They...they beat me.” She had no other words to describe it. “They beat me,” she sat forward on the bed, “See, here and here.” Where the nightdress fell open, she pointed to all the black and blue marks. “See…see.”
“No, no.” Miss Morrison drew back. “The doctor himself said nothing but water touched you. You hurt yourself when you fell in the dining hall. Nothing but water ever touched you after that. It is a modern treatment for nervous disorders. I’ve had the water treatment myself.” She laughed a little self-consciously. “For my nerves at the health spas in Saratoga.”
Delia had never heard of Saratoga, but she was sure a health spa was not at all like Blackwell’s Island. “You are mistaken. It is not a doctor’s treatment. It...it...is..” She sought the right word. “Torture.”
“Oh no.” Miss Morrison continued cheerfully. “I know how shocking that cold water can be. Invigorating. Why afterwards you feel like quite a new person. Completely different. That’s why you are so hungry. I had half a dozen treatments. You know, they used to just lock girls up when they had fits. But there’s been so much progress. That’s why I want to help girls in prison. Water, simple water, can cure all kinds of things.”
Delia lay completely still. She was sure Miss Morrison had never seen the room she been. A dozen treatments? If she had even one water treatment again, she would not live through it. She was certain of that. “I am well,” she said softly. “I am fine.”
“Yes,” Miss Morrison got up to leave “You are our model patient. Your voice is clear, your hands are steady. You can see yourself how well the water cure works.”
After that Delia did as she was told. She spent another day in the infirmary. A doctor came to examine her. He seemed less interested in the bruises on her body than in her mama and papa. He asked her endless questions about her family, her ‘heredity’ he called it. What did her papa die of, he wanted to know. Delia couldn’t recall. “A fever,” she said. What kind? Delia didn’t know. A fever, that was all. I see, he replied and took out a small notebook. And her mama, he asked. Her mama was fine, Delia answered. “No problems,” the doctor persisted. Just her teeth, Delia added. Many people on the Lower East Side had poor teeth. It was common. And that was it? The doctor kept writing in his little notebook. “No fits, no epilepsy, no seizures, no hysteria?” Delia didn’t know what ‘hysteria’ meant. It was a disease females suffered from, he explained. Extremely difficult to cure.
At the word ‘cure’ Delia shuddered. “We are fine people,” she said humbly. “We are not like—“ She stopped. She had almost said ‘half-breeds’ but she remembered Olivia and her children. “I mean that we have no diseases like that.”
She must have sounded more confident than she felt, for she was not given any further cures. Or maybe they just needed her infirmary bed. That night she was taken back to the long dormitory hall where the girls slept on rows of cots. It was after lights out, but she could sense girls watching her as she walked down the aisle in her bare feet, her nightgown flopping from her shoulders and her bundle of workhouse clothes beneath her arm.
Beneath her she found a lumpy package of brown paper. Inside was sandwich with with a smear of molasses in the middle. She lay on her side chewing slowly. The girl in the bed opposite, sat up an looked at her hungrily.
“Who left this?” Delia asked.
The girl shrugged. She hadn't seen.
Delia broke off a piece and handed it over to show that she was friendly.
“You must know someone who works in the kitchen." The girl spoke in a thick Irish brogue. "They can sneak all kinds of things out.” She licked the molasses from the bread first. “So you got the water treatment, did you?”
So everyone knew. Delia wanted to pull the coarse gray sheet over her head and never come out. Everyone knew what had happened to her in that room.
“Hell, I wouldn’t mind the water treatment myself, if I could do what you did.” The girl popped the last morsel bread into her mouth.
“What do you mean? What did I do?”
“They way that old cow howled when you twisted her arm. Best bloody thing that’s happened since I been here.”
Delia lay on her back, staring into darkness. She remembered flinging her weight onto someone’s arm as she was pushed to the floor. So that’s what she had done. She was a troublemaker. Even when she tried not to be. It was something about herself that she could not seem to change.
After a couple of hours, she drifted into a fitful sleep.
“I knew I’d find you here,” someone whispered in her ear.
Delia sat straight up out of her dream.
“Shhh.” Lilly pressed a hand over Delia’s mouth. “I’ve been looking all over. I asked everyone which bed was yours. Do you know, Deelie, everyone knows you here?”
Lilly wore a workhouse nightdress. Delia dug her fingers into Lilly’s arms, certain that she was still dreaming. In an instant she would really waken and Lilly would disappear. “I thought you had gone with Isaac to the west of America?”
Lilly ignored Delia’s question. “When I went back to Mrs. Bloomberg’s the girls there said you had been arrested and sent to Blackwell’s Island. I knew I had to get arrested too. There are strikes all over the city these days. Everyplace the girls are walking out of the shops. And instead of talking reason, the bosses call the police. So I joined the strikers and went to jail. But someone paid my fine. So the next time, I filled a paper bag with black pepper. When the police came near me I threw it as hard as I could. Everyone started screaming it was a bomb. Even after they discovered it was no such thing, the judge called me a chronic disturber of the peace and dangerous agitator and gave me a ten day sentence.”
“Why in the world would you want to come here?”
“Because you are here, of course. Do you think I would let you stay alone? You are a sister to me. A sister, remember?”
“I thought you were married.”
Lilly drew her knees up to her chest, rocking back and forth. “Isaac had a wife already in New Jersey and another fiancée in Philadelphia. He said that is how the patriarchs of old lived. They had many wives. We would all live together on a farm in North Dakota.”
“You mean a... a...harem? He had a harem?”
“Do you believe it? I said I would not go anyplace with his other wives so he said I could just go back to where I came from. And I did. Now I will never marry,” Lilly added sorrowfully. “Who would have me after this?”
“And who me?” Marriage was as far from Delia’s mind as Blackwell’s Island was from the Lower East Side. It felt strange to even ask the question. "Who would marry a muzik like me? Who?”
Lilly started to giggle softly. “Henry Mendelsohn. That’s who. Remember the lockout and how met Henry Mendelsohn and went to the park? Rachel got so mad and told us we could both marry Henry Mendelsohn.”
Of course Delia remembered. How could she forget? Leisure. That great day of leisure. That day that had been so much fun and had started so much trouble. “Henry…” She started to giggle too, though she didn’t want to. Laughter raked her insides like fire, like a demon trying to get out. Whether it was laughter or something else, she didn’t want to know. Hysteria. She crammed her fist into her mouth.
“Dear most esteemed editor,” Lilly whispered. “My friend and I wish to be come the harem of--”
“H...Henry...M…Mendelsohn...” The name sputtered out in spite of Delia’s efforts to silence herself. “Henry Mendelsohn...”
“Shhh...” Voices around them hissed.
“Can it, will ya?” Someone grumbled under her breath. “Or the matron will be here.”
Delia and Lilly couldn’t stop themselves. They shuddered with barely suppressed laughter. Tears rolled down their cheeks. In another second Delia knew she would start to scream.
“Cut it out,” her neighbor snapped. “Who the hell do you two think you are?”
“We are the harem of Henry Mendelsohn,” Lilly called out boldly into the darkness. Stunned silence filled the dormitory.
“The harem of Henry Mendelsohn.” She cradled Delia in her arms, repeating the words like a lullaby and laughing silently until they both went to sleep.
Like many Americans I am the descendant of immigrants. I have always been fascinated by their stories. I hope you enjoy reading about Delia and her adventures growing up on the Lower East Side. If you want to learn more about the historical background, please take a look at the About and Resources sections. If you want to learn more about my other books for children and young adults visit my website.
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