Nelson Johnson frequently stopped working on Boardwalk Empire to wrestle with how best to handle the thorny subject of race. But he persisted, and the result was a chapter - "A Plantation by the Sea" - that inspired this powerful sequel. In The Northside, Johnson brings the untold story of Atlantic City's black community vividly to life, from the arrival of the first African Americans to Absecon Island in the early 19th century through the glory days of the "World's Playground".
Drawing on dozens of personal interviews and painstaking archival research, he reveals long-forgotten details about the people on whose backs the gambling mecca was built and offers a wide-ranging survey of the accomplishments of more recent generations.
Exploited for their labor and banished to the most undesirable part of town, resilient Northsiders created a vibrant city within a city - a place where black culture could thrive and young people could aspire to become artists, athletes, educators, and leaders of business, politics, and society. As Nelson Johnson shows in this unflinching portrait, Atlantic City was built on their toil and the Northside was born of their dreams.
©2011 Nelson Johnson (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
"From the grand Boardwalk hotels to the Paradise Club to Chicken Bone Beach, the racism of the times kept Atlantic City's blacks segregated from white tourists. But in response, African Americans built their own city within a city and a unique, tight-knit, thriving community that Nelson Johnson has chronicled here in fascinating detail." (James Perskie, The Press of Atlantic City)
"The Northside manages to capture all the subtlety and grit that shaped the lives of people, especially African Americans, in Atlantic City in the mid-20th century - a microcosm of the issues gripping the nation during those turbulent times. A remarkable and inspiring book." (Donna Brazile, political commentator, CNN and ABC, and contributing columnist, Ms. and O, The Oprah Magazine)
Similar in general content to Boardwalk Empire, The Northside is a blend of history and memoir with a good deal of nostalgia tossed in for good measure. It is sometimes hard to tell whether the author is speaking from personal experience or those of other people. It isn't by any means a bad book, but it isn't great either.
It is also not easy to keep track of time and place, or for that matter, who is doing what.
This is another one of those books that I really wanted to like a lot, but ended up disappointed. It almost caught fire ... it was almost exciting. But almost wasn't quite enough. In the end, it was interesting, but it never ignited into compelling. The narrator was good, with a lazy drawl that worked well for many of the story's colorful characters. But again, despite being good, she never rose to better than good.
It's a very anecdotal history. Lots of stories within stories. I wish it had been more dynamically read, more energetically told, more focused on history and less on the personal histories of individuals. Or maybe it was that the author tried to do too many things at the same time and wound up with a rather diffuse story that takes a lot of side trips into the politics and culture of the times.Interesting, but kind of disorganized.
Still, you won't feel you've wasted your credit if you buy it.
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