By Paul Wein
Books about Brooklyn are one of the most popular items that are purchased from Brooklyn’s local bookstores. These new treasures are typically purchased for reference for a high school student doing a report on where he or she grew up, given as gifts to those who had the audacity not to be born here, or thumbed through right in the bookstore so the reader can temporarily wax nostalgic, much to the dismay of the storekeeper.
As for the range of Brooklyn books, fortunately, there is a plethora of published periodicals that divulge information about the borough. From The Brooklyn Cookbook to Confessions Of A Trolley Dodger From Brooklyn, authors have provided readers, who claim their Brooklyn birthright, with countless memories bound into the pages of a huge assortment of books.
And what is in these books? What anecdotes are hidden inside the pages of these books that make readers force bookstores to order more copies and the authors to return with all-new books filled with all-old memories? If you’re not a Brooklynite, you wouldn’t get it.
The books contain a language all of their own, a language that people have come to call “Brooklynese” because of its origin. This “language” does not require a lesson in a new dialect, or countless hours of studying phonetics, only the use of your five senses; You need to know what it was like to live on streets and hear the screams of two arguing stickball teams or the smack of a baseball bat hitting a home run straight out of Ebbets Field, see a beach filled with what looks like thousands of little ants from the Parachute Jump in Coney Island, taste a Nathan’s hot dog as it hits your taste-buds for the very first time, smell the fish-filled streets of Sheepshead Bay when the fishing boats come in filled with catches-of-the-day, and touch a warm, authentic Brooklyn bagel on a winter’s day. The five senses certainly played a major role in “growing up Brooklyn.” That’s why these books are so popular. Having grown up in Brooklyn, many Brooklynites have made a hobby of remembering “the good-old-days”. This hobby, unfortunately requires props, (due to the fact that many Brooklynites talk with their hands and need something to point to) and that’s where the books come in. People love to point to old pictures of a child in a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform or show their friends a picture of Kings Highway and West 11th Street, in 1910, when the left side of Kings Highway, a very popular and lucrative strip of land, was nothing but a grassy lawn that resembled Marine Park instead of the Kings Highway that we know today.
Besides being a great item to place on a coffee table, these books also serve as a tool for parents and grandparents to pass on the history of their hometown to their children and grandchildren.
It usually takes about a half of a second to get someone of any age interested in Brooklyn’s rich history. With an aid like the many books that are on sale to assist you in this effortless effort, you can’t lose.
And for those who do not understand “Brooklynese”, don’t worry. There are many dictionaries and encyclopedias that will help you to learn this wonderful language.