Threads and Flames by Esther Friesner is the latest book I have read about this tragedy. Although she does a good job of recreating the horrors of the fire, Friesner concentrates more on the experiences of the immigrants coming to this country around the turn of the century and on the effects of the aftermath of the fire on their lives.
The main character Raisa comes to the U.S. alone in search of her older sister. On the ship, she offers to help an ill woman with her little girl. When the woman dies, Raise suddenly finds herself in a position of being responsible for the little girl when she is hardly more than a child herself. She desperately needs a job, almost any job, to provide food and shelter no only for herself, but also for little Brina before she can even think about looking for her sister.
Raisa feels fortunate when she finally gets a job at the Triangle factory. Compared to other jobs she has had, the Triangle factory is a modern shop with chances for advancement. After the fire, still in the midst of her shock and grief, she must go to the pier where the victims are displayed in a double row of coffins to search for the bodies of her friends. She feels compelled to attend the funerals of the victims, even those that cannot be identified or that are only pieces of bodies. She deals with the mental anguish of survivor's guilt. Why did she survive when others she cared about did not? She has to come to terms with the fact that the owners of the factory are not held responsible for the unsafe working conditions and in fact made a profit on the fire once their insurance pays them.
This is a moving story which serves to remind us of the value of life. It also reminds us that many of the same conditions exist today, not only in the sweatshops underdeveloped countries, but also in our own country where corrupt businesses still take advantage of poor and often illegal workers.
If this is a topic that interests you, you might also want to try these books from our library.
- Ashes of Roses by Mary Jane Auch
- Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddix
- Hear My Sorrow (Dear America series) by Deborah Hopkinson
- Audacity by Melanie Crowder
- Flesh and Blood So Cheap by Albert Marrin
- YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults (2012)
- Amelia Bloomer List (2012)
- NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People (2011)