"A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" is a 1940s coming-of-age novel that is widely regarded as a classic in American literature. The novel has long been popular with audiences who could readily identify with the primary character, Francie Nolan, who grew up in impoverished Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York during the early 20th century.
Francie's dream was to escape from the poverty in which she grew up. Her grandmother, an immigrant who spoke little English, stressed the importance of reading and writing in working her way out of poverty and achieving success.
Naïve and idealistic, Francie began with a goal: to read every book in the library that was in walking distance from the sum district tenement where she lived. The novel follows her struggles and triumphs. Those who love the book readily identify with her.
An understanding of the immigrant experience and the appeal of the American dream have made this a best-selling book for generations, both then and now. Contemporary audiences continue to draw inspiration from this young working-class girl who sets her foot firmly on a path and refuses to give in to poverty, hardship and temptation to simply give up.
Betty Smith was an American novelist and playwright. Born in 1896, she became a popular novelist of the mid-20th century. Her work remains very relevant and popular today. The events in "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" are largely autobiographical. Born Elizabeth Wehner, she was the daughter of immigrants from Austria. She loved school but had to leave before entering high school because of the death of her father. She dedicated her life to reading and was eventually able to go to the University of Michigan after marrying, moving to Michigan where her husband attended law school and starting a family. She later divorced, moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina and remarried. She died in 1972 from complications of pneumonia.
During her lifetime, Smith wrote at least 70 one-act plays. Her other novels include "Tomorrow Will Be Better," "Maggie Now" and "Joy in the Morning."
A moving coming-of-age story set in the 1900’s, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn follows the lives of eleven-year-old Francie Nolan, her younger brother Neely, and their parents, Irish immigrants who have settled in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. Johnny Nolan is as loving and fanciful as they come, but he is also often drunk and out of work, unable to find his place in the land of opportunity. His wife Katie scrubs floors to put food on the table and clothes on her childrens’ backs, instilling in them the values of being practical and planning ahead.
When Johnny dies, leaving Katie pregnant, Francie—smart, pensive, and hoping for something better—cannot believe that life can carry on as before. But with her own determination, and that of her mother behind her, Francie is able to move toward the future of her dreams, completing her education and heading oft to college, always carrying the beloved Brooklyn of her childhood in her heart. Download and start listening now!