More New York Diaries: 1609 – 2009

I’m now reading New York Diaries in order, cover to cover, experiencing it as Teresa Carpenter intended. I’m getting glimpses of the moon through a telescope in 1844; the anxious thoughts of a young, single girl worrying about losing her beauty, and death, and never being loved; Michael Hirschorn’s scathing account of a book party (thank god I know for a fact that I wasn’t there); Theodore Roosevelt’s head-over-heels joy of having found love; 150 year old complaints about immigrants that could have been written today, (except even in the exasperation there’s more compassion).

There’s a number of “could have been written today” entries and I’m sure it’s no accident. In 1947 Simone de Beauvoir wrote, “If even so-called left-wing intellectuals are so proud of the boxes of condensed milk their government dispenses to us, ” and of course it made me think of those yellow boxes of food we dropped on Afghanistan, which, if I’m remembering correctly, were filled with pork and fed to their animals. Everyone meant well (mostly).

This is my kind of history book. If I was a history teacher, I’d assign it.

In one of the entries I worked on, a police inspector wrote about catching a run away slave named Henry Long and returning him to his “owner” in Virginia (the Fugitive Slave Act had recently passed). This is the jail known as the Tombs, where Long was taken.

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

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