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Flesh and Blood So Cheap - A Book Review

There are so many areas in history that get ignored or just mentioned as an aside. Many important events do not get the attention they should consider their impact on history. Albert Marrin educates the world in his Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and its Legacy about the tragic New York event that changed American history and impacts us still today.

Who even knows what the Triangle Fire was? When did it happen? What is so important about it? The truth is that very few know of the fire that was the most tragic event in New York history until the 9/11 tragedy. I was sad to realize how little I knew or that my teachers did not stress its importance.

The garment industry began to boom at the turn of the twentieth century. At that time, there were no safety standards and laws. Employers basically do whatever they wanted. It was an entirely new version of slavery. Employees did whatever was required or lost their jobs. Those jobs fed families and helped bring loved ones into America.

One of the great aspects of this book is that Marrin does not just describe the horrible fire. He goes back further to how it all came about. He describes how the garment industry grew and developed to the company that occupied the doomed building. He describes the workers who were young immigrant women who could be the sole breadwinners for their large families or were working long hours to help support family back home in Russia, Italy, or other European countries.

The background history of the event is very important and overlooked too often by many when it comes to discussing any historical event. Without the history behind it, the event might not have happened. It has to be understood.

Marrin’s description of the tragic fire brought tears to my eyes. Even if he had not told you about the similarities between the Triangle Fire and 9/11, I could have seen it so clearly in the flaming bodies jumping from the building and the trapped employees above the flaming floor. It was as though I was there watching the women die.

Just as he goes beyond just telling the story by telling of the history behind it, Marrin goes further and describes the aftershocks that occurred and the affect it had on our world today. That one fire changed the industry, our schools, our public buildings, unions, and government as far as the presidency. This was not just a tragic event in New York. It was a tsunami that washed over the entire country and beyond.

I really loved the pictures that are included throughout the book of the people, places, and events. It really brought the story to life and made it real instead of just a “story”. Visual aids help cement what is read.

It is a book designed for ages ten and up. If the younger child is sensitive, they might need help through the description of the fire. It can be rather graphic for that age. Marrin describes the bodies that were found on the floor that had so many dead as well as those that jumped out of the windows. If it made me cry, it could really affect a child. The adult should review that section before the child reads and make a decision whether or not reading it or summarizing it is better.

This is a great book especially to help in teaching that part of history whether you are homeschooling or in the traditional classroom setting. Even adults should read this book. All who do will learn so much and will even look at “Exit” signs differently and think of the women whose lives helped bring that about. Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and its Legacy is a book worth getting.

Note: This book was supplied to me by the publisher upon my request.

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