*Ellis Island. Official processing center in New York Harbor, where, like thousands of other immigrants in 1907, David Schearl and his mother Genya first set foot in America. They are met by Genya’s husband Albert, who has preceded them across the Atlantic and has been living in Brownsville and working as a printer. Albert accompanies his wife and son on a ferry from Ellis Island to the city, where they begin their lives together as a new American family. Genya’s first words, a remark about having arrived in “the Golden Land,” highlight the novel’s attention to its urban setting.
*Lower East Side
*Lower East Side. Congested section of Manhattan where European immigrants, particularly Jews, settled soon after arriving in the United States. David Schearl and his parents live on the fourth floor of a tenement house on 9th Street and Avenue D. The novel is largely restricted to the consciousness of a frightened, confused little boy who, except for an unfortunate excursion with his father on his milk route, rarely ventures beyond the turbulent streets immediately surrounding his building. In addition to the family apartment itself, significant events occur on the roof of the building. Roth’s Lower East Side is a vibrant, polyglot community, terrifying to a young newcomer but inspiring to an author. Roth later credited this urban setting for much of the stimulus to write Call It Sleep....
(The entire section is 533 words.)