The subject was 1970s Brooklyn on Episode 94 of the GSMC Book Review Podcast as I spoke with author Tommy Carbone about his memoir, Growing Up Greenpoint: A Kid's Life in 1970s Brooklyn.
In Growing up Greenpoint, Tommy Carbone captures what it was like to be a kid during the 1970s and 80s in Brooklyn. This funny, and sometimes emotional, memoir follows the years Tommy was educated not only in the classrooms of St. Stan’s, but on the streets of Greenpoint. It was there, playing street games with friends, being cornered by muggers, playing kissing games with the girls, spending time with family, and constantly seeking out the best snack foods in the neighborhood, where Tommy learned a lot about life; although he may not have known it at the time.A simple conversation, years later, about the New York City Blackout of 1977 sparks Tommy to recall his youth in the city he loved. His stories will bring you into the action of what it was like to dodge cars during a ballgame, to take a hike to another borough in search of a particular burger, to the hours spent playing pinball in a corner candy store, and how special it was to build traditions with three generations of Polish and Italian relatives in Brooklyn’s garden spot.The vivid descriptions of his antics of what it was like to grow up during those years will transport you to the sounds and smells of living in the city during those trying years. Reading this book, you’ll be entertained, and at the same time, you may shake your head wondering how Tommy ever survived - Growing up in Greenpoint. (Source)
This book is a lot of fun. Tommy experienced some pretty major events in the life of New York City, including the blackout in 1977 and a fairly significant blizzard in 1978. While these were stressful events for the adults who had to deal with all of the logistical issues, they were actually quite the adventure for the kids in Tommy's neighborhood. My childhood was vastly different than Tommy's, so it was fun to read about growing up in an urban environment. It was also amazing how many parts of the book I resonated with despite the differences in our upbringings.
What I enjoyed:
- Reading about a childhood so different from mine. I grew up in rural Montana, Tommy grew up in Brooklyn. As a child I knew Brooklyn existed because a friend's mom grew up there and his grandma would come to visit every year, but I had absolutely no concept of what living in an urban area was actually like. It was fun to see childhood through a different lens.
- All of the stories about food. I jokingly asked Tommy how he didn't end up weighing 300 pounds because it seemed like he did nothing but eat growing up. Again, his childhood food experiences were very different than mine, but I still found similarities in some of the stories he tells that involve both food and family. I also now think I need to try and egg cream...and I want to know why it has that name when it has neither egg nor cream...
- Reliving aspects of my own childhood, especially different types of technology (or lack thereof).
- "Looking back, the Greenpoint of my youth certainly had an impact on my personality, my outlook on life, and how I view the city - both good and bad - until this very day."
- "More recently I have resorted to telling people I was just generically from Brooklyn, leaving out the Greenpoint part. I'm not happy about that, so the next time I am asked, I might just give them a copy of this book"
- "This was our type of street food - pickles from barrels, slices from hole in the wall pizza joints, knishes from candy stores, leftover pretzels, sausages from butchers, and smoked fish off a clothesline."
Where you can find Tommy online:
Amazon Author Page: Tommy Carbone
GoodReads: Tommy Carbone
Tommy Carbone grew up in Greenpoint Brooklyn during the 1970s and early 80s. He roamed the avenues, hung out in candy stores playing pinball, and dodged cars chasing spaldeens. Brooklyn was then, as it is now, the “4th largest city” in America.He now writes from a one-room cabin, on the shore of a lake that is frozen for six months out of the year, and where moose outnumber people 3 to 1. (Source)
Do you want to read Growing Up Greenpoint? You are in luck because Tommy has been kind enough to provide 3 signed copies to give away! All you have to do is go to either our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages and comment on the post with Tom's interview. It's as simple as that: just comment on Episode 94 on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and you'll automatically be entered to win Growing Up Greenpoint! The last day to enter is July 14th and winners will be announced on July 16th.
To hear the interview with Tommy, please click here.