Wednesday, June 3, 2015

G583 Book Review of Upper West Side Story by Susan Pashman

Name of Book: Upper West Side Story

Author: Susan Pashman

ISBN: 978-1-941861-03-5

Publisher: Harvard Square Press

Type of book: Race issues, New York, family, friendship, interracial friendship, murder, politics, politicians, tragedy, suing, legality, juvenile hall

Year it was published: 2015


Upper West Side Story is a tale of friendships between people of different races.

The narrator, Bettina Grosjean, is a professor of Women’s History, and her husband, a high-ranking environmental policymaker in the New York City mayor’s office. Once a pair of student radicals, they are now raising their two brainy children on New York’s Upper West Side.

Their fierce parental love is tested in a startling eruption of racial hostility and political chicanery within the very community they have long loved and helped to build. Their world is suddenly thrown into crisis by a shocking and tragic event: During a school field trip, their son Max and his best friend, Cyrus, are horsing around when, in a freak accident, Cyrus falls down a flight of stairs, and dies a few days later.

The fact that Cyrus is black, that his mother is Bettina’s closest friend--that jealousy, suspicion and resentment have long been simmering in the community, and that there are powerful political forces at work as well--all conspire to reveal an ugly underbelly of the community the Grosjeans have worked so hard to shape into a model of an enlightened, multiracial world.

Upper West Side Story portrays a remarkable multi-racial friendship, the love of two women united by their ideals and their devotion to their children, then divided by events that spiral out of control.

With cries for racial justice again rising up all over our country, Upper West Side Story is a story you will want to read.


There are some main characters in the story, namely Max and his mother Bettina as well as Stephen the father. Max is a chess champion and is best friends with Cyrus who happens to be African-American. The two enjoy playing chess together. However, while fooling around, Max accidentally causes Cyrus's death. Max is loyal and devoted to his loved ones and is considered a good boy. Bettina is a college professor of history and feminism and is best friends with Viola as well as some other women who put together the enrichment program for the intelligent children. Personally for me, Bettina seemed to be naive and complacent when it came to racial issues. She tries to do what she can, but results are not what she wants them to be. Stephen is the father and a savvy politician who knows what's going on and is willing to do what he can for Max.


Its possible to like each other


The story is in first person narrative from Max's and Bettina's points of view. Basically, Bettina picks up Max's journal, and while the reader does get a chance to read what he wrote, Bettina comments more in depth of what she and the family were going through. Besides the friendship between the boys and how they got along, I'm not really sure what the author was trying to accomplish with the story, and I have to say that while beginning to ending was interesting and seemed to focus on building the characters, the ending really rushed and felt frustrating because the author abandoned character development. I did feel that certain characters such as Viola and political ones are very rushed.

Author Information:
(from iread book tours)

Susan Pashman
Meet the author: 

Susan Pashman is a philosophy professor and former attorney. While in law school, she served a year in the New York City Council President’s office; some of what she learned there has found its way into this story. But most of this book derives from her experience of raising two boys on her own in Brooklyn. Many of her sons’ childhood exploits, and the hopes and fears she had for them, became the heart of this novel.
She now resides in Sag Harbor, New York, with her husband, Jack Weinstein.

Connect with Susan:  Website ~  Facebook ~ Twitter  ~  Goodreads


This will sound odd, but I'm definitely not a fan of fiction that really reminds me of Jodi Picoult's books, and unfortunately this story does remind me of Jodi Picoult. I have read some of Jodi Picoult's works previously, and decided they weren't for me. The story is relevant and important, especially when it comes to the forbidden talk of race and of how far we have to go as humans, and also in some cases it reminded me of a story I read in a class which focuses on daily life in extraordinary situations. So yes, I did like these particular parts of the story, but other parts, well, I found them to be confusing and there seemed to be more questions than answers. Also as well, while I know Max is a teenager, I thought the language didn't really fit him. Reading the book as well really reminded me of Waking Up White by Debby Irving, a non-fiction story of how she began to think of white as a race.

This is for iRead Book Tours


May 20 - Celticlady's Reviews - book spotlight
May 21 - The Book Review - review / giveaway
May 22 - T's Stuff - book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
May 25 - Everything Distils into Reading - review
May 26 - The Autistic Gamer - review
May 27 - A Blue Million Books - book spotlight / author interview
May 28 - Readers Muse - review / author interview / guest post
May 29 - Vic's Reading Room - review
June   1 - Book Stop Corner - review / author interview / giveaway
June   2 - Deal Sharing Aunt - review
June   3 - Svetlana's Reads and Views - review
June   4 - The Things We Read - review
June   5 - Nighttime Reading Center - review / author interview / giveaway
June   8 - Back Porchervations - review / giveaway
June   9 - Room With Books - book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
June   9 - Rockin' Book Reviews - review / giveaway
June 10 - Library of Clean Reads - review / giveaway
3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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