Friday, March 27, 2009

Pg. 99: Eve Pell's "We Used to Own the Bronx"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: We Used to Own the Bronx: Memoirs of a Former Debutante by Eve Pell.

About the book, from the publisher:
An inside story of privilege, inherited wealth, and the bizarre values and customs of the American upper crust.

We Used to Own the Bronx tells the story of a woman born into the proprieties of an East Coast dynasty who nevertheless leaves her world of privilege for a career as an investigative reporter. Recounting her upbringing, Eve Pell offers an inside look at the bizarre values and customs of the American aristocracy, from debutante balls and the belowstairs hierarchy of the servant class to the fanatical pursuit of blood sports and private men’s clubs whose members were cared for like sultans. In the patriarchal world of the upper crust, girls were expected to flatter and defer to boys and men: her scholar-athlete sister was offered a racehorse if she would refuse to attend college. A parade of eccentrics populates the book, from the cockfighting stepfather who ran away from boarding school with a false beard and a stolen motorcycle to the Brahmin great-uncle who secretly organized the servants in Tuxedo Park to vote for Teddy Roosevelt.

But as she moved beyond the narrow world she was expected to inhabit, Pell encountered people and ideas that brought her into conflict with her past. Equally unconventional are the muckrakers and revolutionaries she met in the 1960s and 1970s, and her subsequent adventures and misadventures while working with radical activists to reform the California prison system. As Pell traces her absorbing journey from debutante to working mother, from the upper crust of the East Coast to the radical activists of the West, from a life of wealth and privilege to one of trying to make ends meet, she provides exceptional insight into the prickly and complex issues of social class in America.
Read an excerpt from We Used to Own the Bronx, and learn more about the book and author at Eve Pell's website.

Eve Pell served as reporter and associate producer for three PBS documentaries: The Best Campaign Money Can Buy, which won a Columbia-DuPont award in 1992, Heartbeat of America, which won a Cine Golden Apple a year later, and The Battle Over School Choice. Her books include The Big Chill about the Reagan administration and Maximum Security on conditions in California prisons.

The Page 99 Test: We Used to Own the Bronx.

--Marshal Zeringue