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A 2015 National Jewish Book Award finalistThe inspiring story of Clara Lemlich, whose fight for equal rights led to the largest strike by women in American history A gorgeously told novel in verse...
A 2015 National Jewish Book Award finalistThe inspiring story of Clara Lemlich, whose fight for equal rights led to the largest strike by women in American history A gorgeously told novel in verse...
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  • A 2015 National Jewish Book Award finalist
    The inspiring story of Clara Lemlich, whose fight for equal rights led to the largest strike by women in American history

    A gorgeously told novel in verse written with intimacy and power, Audacity is inspired by the real-life story of Clara Lemlich, a spirited young woman who emigrated from Russia to New York at the turn of the twentieth century and fought tenaciously for equal rights. Bucking the norms of both her traditional Jewish family and societal conventions, Clara refuses to accept substandard working conditions in the factories on Manhattan's Lower East Side. For years, Clara devotes herself to the labor fight, speaking up for those who suffer in silence. In time, Clara convinces the women in the factories to strike, organize, and unionize, culminating in the famous Uprising of the 20,000.

    Powerful, breathtaking, and inspiring, Audacity is the story of a remarkable young woman, whose passion and selfless devotion to her cause changed the world.

    Praise for AUDACITY:
    A 2015 National Jewish Book Award finalist
    A Washington Post Best Children's Books for April: Poetry Edition
    An ILA Notable Book for a Global Society
    A 2016 NCTE Children's Notable Verse Novel
    A New York Public Library Best Book for Teens
    An ALA Top 10 Best Fiction for Young Adults Pick
    An ALSC Notable Children's Book nominee
    A BCCB Blue Ribbon winner
    * "Crowder breathes life into a world long past....Compelling, powerful and unforgettable." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
    * "This book stands alone....an impactful addition to any historical fiction collection."—School Library Journal, starred review
    * "With a thorough historical note, glossary of terms, and bibliography, this will make an excellent complement to units on women's rights and the labor movement, but it will also satisfy readers in search of a well-told tale of a fierce heroine."—BCCB, starred review
    * "This is an excellent title that can open discussions in U.S. history and economics courses about women's rights, labor unions, and the immigrant experience."—School Library Connection, starred review
    "Based on the true story of Clara Lemlich, Audacity throbs with the emotions of this exceptional young woman who fought for equal rights and improved labor standards in factories. Melanie Crowder's verses spit out Clara's rage, cradle her longing and soar like the birds that are her constant companions."—Bookpage

    "Crowder's (Parched) use of free verse in this fictionalization of Russian-Jewish immigrant Clara Lemlich's life brings a spare poignancy to a familiar history."—Publishers Weekly
    "Brilliant, riveting, informative." —Cynthia Levinson, critically acclaimed author of We've Got a Job
    "Audacity is an evocative reimagining of a fascinating historical figure who should be remembered for her determination in the face of great odds and powerful opposition—and for her role in changing America. Melanie Crowder's powerful verse reveals a long-past world, but the combination of hope and outrage that Clara Lemlich brought to her struggle should be both recognizable and inspirational to teen readers longing to right the injustices of our day."—Margaret Peterson Haddix, critically acclaimed, bestselling author of Uprising




  • From the book clouds

    Over the grey plain of the sea
    winds are gathering the storm-clouds

    float like wayward clouds
    in the air
    in my mind.

    Now his wing the wave

    or was it,

    Now the wave his wing caresses

    I dip a hand
    into my apron pocket
    unfold a square of paper
    against my palm,
    hunch my shoulder,
    hide it from view.



    Now his wing the wave caresses,
    now he rises like an arrow
    cleaving clouds

    The poem is ripped
    from my hand
    and the air,
    where only wayward clouds
    had been,
    is full of shouting,
    a hand raised in anger
    ready to strike—

    the world slows
    in the second before
    pain blooms
    in my jaw;
    a second
    to hope
    the poem is
    in my mind
    where fists
    and fury
    cannot shake it free.


    Just because I am
    small boned
    and short,
    brown haired
    and brown eyed,
    just because I look

    as a wren
    as a robin

    that does not mean
    what is inside me is also

    as a wren
    as a robin.

    I wish for
    is strange
    even wrong in this place
    but I know
    I cannot be the only one
    blanketing her bright feathers
    hooding her sharp eyes
    in plain sight.

    My life
    so far
    has been ordinary

    but I cannot shake the feeling
    that inside this little body
    something stronger
    is nesting
    for a chance
    to flex her talons
    snap her wings
    and glide
    far away
    from here.


  • Publisher's Weekly

    November 10, 2014
    Crowder’s (Parched) use of free verse in this fictionalization of Russian-Jewish immigrant Clara Lemlich’s life brings a spare poignancy to a familiar history: a poor family’s flight from Russia following the 1903 pogrom, an arduous journey to Ellis Island, survival in the tenements of New York’s Lower East Side, and Clara’s grueling work in garment industry sweatshops. The only daughter in a strict Orthodox family, forbidden to learn Russian, read, or write, Clara secretly defies her father’s decrees, hungry for education and determined to become a doctor. As she endures horrific working conditions in America, her dream changes, and she becomes a tireless leader of the union movement. Fighting to organize the women workers, she is locked out of jobs, jailed, and beaten: “They do not speak/ but their message is/ painfully/ clear/ slap scratch/ punch pummel/ kick kick spit.” In addition to a closing note that provides context and biographical information, an endearing interview with Lemlich’s children and grandchildren gives a glimpse into how this stubborn and fiery young woman lived out the balance of her life. Ages 12–up. Agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from October 15, 2014
    A novel in verse featuring the real-life Clara Lemlich, a courageous, tenacious warrior for workers' rights in turn-of-the-20th-century New York City.Newly arrived in New York from Russia, she finds employment in a sweatshop, where young immigrant girls toil in dangerous conditions, cheated and harassed by bosses, earning pennies for long hours of work. Sacrificing her dream of an education and in spite of her family's dire economic straits, she devotes her energy to supporting these girls, fighting for the inclusion of women in the all-male garment union and winning them their own local. She organizes strikes against individual sweatshops and leads the Uprising of the 20,000, during which she and the other young women strikers are repeatedly beaten by police and hired thugs, arrested and jailed. From her constricted life in a Russian shtetl and difficult journey to America to the choices she makes in her new life, readers hear Clara's strong, clear voice in action-packed verses that convey with intense emotion her conflicts and conviction, her deepest thoughts, and her doubts and triumphs. Crowder breathes life into a world long past and provides insight into the achievements of one determined woman who knows she will "give / without the thought / of ever getting back, / to ease the suffering of others. / That, / I think, / I will be doing / the rest of my life." Compelling, powerful and unforgettable. (historical note, interview, glossary, sources) (Historical fiction/poetry. 12-18)

    COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from October 1, 2014

    Gr 7 Up-Written in verse, this novel is loosely based on the life of Clara Lemlich Shavelson, the leader of New York shirtwaist strike of 1909. Clara and her family are Jewish Russians who flee the anti-Semitism of turn-of-the-century Russia to find a better life in America. However, Clara still experiences gender and religious oppression in New York. She is unable to gain the education she desires, because she is forced to work in a sweatshop, and she can't rise above her given status as an immigrant worker because foreign women are taught only rudimentary English. But "Inside I am anything/ but fresh off the boat./ I have been ready for this/ possibility/ all my life," Clara declares, and she proves that she has the audacity to do the impossible for a female and a Jew: organizing a woman's union and ultimately having her voice heard. The verse form of the narrative lends lightness to an otherwise bleak topic and moves the story along quickly, while artful formatting of the text creates and sustains mood. This book stands alone in its topic and time frame, with only Michelle Markel's picture book Brave Girl (HarperCollins, 2013) as a nonfiction companion. With historical notes, interviews with Clara's family members, and a glossary of Yiddish terms, Audacity is an impactful addition to any historical fiction collection.-Brittany Staszak, Glencoe Public Library, IL

    Copyright 2014 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • DOGO Books star student - The author (Melanie Crowder) makes me feel like I'm in the story because Melanie Crowder uses awesome words and makes the story so intense. For example, in the story its says "We travel half way the world and still my dreams are impossible." and she's one of my favorite authors and in every single part i could feel her same pain and happiness. It's a really good book I love it.
  • Booklist

    December 1, 2014
    Grades 7-12 From the shtetl, through the Russian Empire pogroms and steerage, Clara Lemlich and her family finally arrive in teeming New York City. Crowder's verse novel tells the eastern European immigrant story at the turn of the last century. Here, whether in the Old or New World, the men study Torah and the women work. Clara not only endures her hard labor in abysmal conditions but feels deeply for those women and children suffering around her. After the workday, Clara studies English, always reaching for her destiny. In short order, it is the labor movement that will be her calling and unionizing that will be her vehicle. Crowder develops Clara's education from the mean streets through persuasive verse: I have only been in this country two years but quickly, I learned you have to fight for what you wantyou have to take what you need. It is Clara who claims that all she has is audacity. Thanks to audacious Clara, this fictional narrative, based on Lemlich's real-life experiences, illuminates the labor-union movement, especially the women's strike known as the Uprising of the 20,000.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2014, American Library Association.)

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    Penguin Young Readers Group
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