Chapters 1-2 Summary
Editor's Note: In Brooklyn Bridge, the author tells two stories simultaneously. The main story, presented in the text with regular font, is about Joseph Michtom and his immigrant family who live in Brooklyn. The italicized sections recount the story of a group of unwanted children who live under the Brooklyn Bridge during the same period. The author interweaves the two story lines exactly as summarized here. At the end of the novel, the connection between the two becomes clear.
The other kids in the neighborhood think that fourteen-year-old Joseph Michtom is lucky, but he is not sure that he agrees. It is July 1903, and the Michtom family is thriving financially; after having been in America for only sixteen years, Papa and Mama have established an innovative business manufacturing stuffed bears. Joseph acknowledges that he is indeed fortunate, but sometimes he longs for the days when Papa simply ran the candy shop and novelty store located below the family's crowded flat in Brooklyn, New York. Papa had time to spend with Joseph and his "kid sister" Emily, Mama, and little Benjamin then, even as he struggled to eke out a living for them all.
The Michtoms come from Russia. All Papa has left of his family are three sisters: Golda, whom the children call "The Queen" because of her take-charge manner; disagreeable Zelda, whom they think of as "Aunt Beast"; and quiet, unassuming Lena, whom they have nicknamed "Aunt Mouse." The sisters live over the bridge in Manhattan and rarely cross over to visit in the comparatively lower-class environs of Brooklyn. In contrast, Mama's brother, Uncle Meyer, lives only seven blocks away from the Michtoms and is "over at [their] place all the time." Thirty years old and unmarried, Uncle Meyer is a "free-thinker" in social and political matters, as are Emily and Mama.
It was Mama, five...
(The entire section is 712 words.)