The Dream: A Memoir

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“Dreams played an important part in our lives in those early days in England. Our mother invented them for us to make up for all the things we lacked and to give us some hope for the future.”

During the hard and bitter years of his youth in England, Harry Bernstein’s selfless mother struggles to keep her six children fed and clothed. But she never stops dreaming of a better life in America, no matter how unlikely. Then, one miraculous day when Harry is twelve years old, steamships tickets arrive in the mail, sent by an anonymous benefactor.

Suddenly, a new life full of the promise of prosperity seems possible–and the family sets sail for America, meeting relatives in Chicago. Harry is mesmerized by the city: the cars, the skyscrapers, and the gorgeous vistas of Lake Michigan. For a time, the family gets a taste of the good life: electric lights, a bathtub, a telephone. But soon the harsh realities of the Great Depression envelop them. Skeletons in the family closet come to light, mafiosi darken their doorstep, family members are lost, and dreams are shattered.

In the face of so much loss, Harry and his mother must make a fateful decision–one that will change their lives forever. And though he has struggled for so long, there is an incredible bounty waiting for Harry in New York: his future wife, Ruby. It is their romance that will finally bring the peace and happiness that Harry’s mother always dreamed was possible.

With a compelling cast and evocative settings, Harry Bernstein’s extraordinary account of his hardscrabble youth in Depression-era Chicago and New York will grip you from the very first page. Full of humor, drama, and romance, this tale of hope and dreams coming true enthralls and enchants.


From the Hardcover edition.
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About the author

Ninety-eight-year-old Harry Bernstein emigrated to the United States with his family after World War I. He began writing his acclaimed first book, The Invisible Wall, after the death of his wife, Ruby. He has also been published in “My Turn” in Newsweek. Bernstein lives in Brick, New Jersey, where he is working on another book.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Ballantine Books
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Published on
Sep 23, 2008
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Pages
272
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ISBN
9780345514530
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs
Family & Relationships / Love & Romance
Social Science / Emigration & Immigration
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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“There are places that I have never forgotten. A little cobbled street in a smoky mill town in the North of England has haunted me for the greater part of my life. It was inevitable that I should write about it and the people who lived on both sides of its ‘Invisible Wall.’ ”

The narrow street where Harry Bernstein grew up, in a small English mill town, was seemingly unremarkable. It was identical to countless other streets in countless other working-class neighborhoods of the early 1900s, except for the “invisible wall” that ran down its center, dividing Jewish families on one side from Christian families on the other. Only a few feet of cobblestones separated Jews from Gentiles, but socially, it they were miles apart.

On the eve of World War I, Harry’s family struggles to make ends meet. His father earns little money at the Jewish tailoring shop and brings home even less, preferring to spend his wages drinking and gambling. Harry’s mother, devoted to her children and fiercely resilient, survives on her dreams: new shoes that might secure Harry’s admission to a fancy school; that her daughter might marry the local rabbi; that the entire family might one day be whisked off to the paradise of America.

Then Harry’s older sister, Lily, does the unthinkable: She falls in love with Arthur, a Christian boy from across the street.

When Harry unwittingly discovers their secret affair, he must choose between the morals he’s been taught all his life, his loyalty to his selfless mother, and what he knows to be true in his own heart.

A wonderfully charming memoir written when the author was ninety-three, The Invisible Wall vibrantly brings to life an all-but-forgotten time and place. It is a moving tale of working-class life, and of the boundaries that can be overcome by love.


From the Hardcover edition.
Harry Bernstein started chronicling his life at the age of ninety-four, after the death of his beloved wife, Ruby. In his first book, The Invisible Wall, he told a haunting story of forbidden love in World War I-era England. Then Bernstein wrote The Dream, the touching tale of his family’s immigrant experience in Depression-era Chicago and New York. Now Bernstein completes the saga with The Golden Willow, a heart-lifting memoir of his life with Ruby, a romance that lasted nearly seventy years.

They met at a dance at New York’s legendary Webster Hall, fell instantly and madly in love, and embarked on a rich and rewarding life together. From their first tiny rented room on the Upper West Side to their years in Greenwich Village, immersed in the art scene, surrounded by dancers, musicians, and writers, to their life in the newly burgeoning suburbs, Harry and Ruby pursued the American dream with gusto, much as Harry’s late mother would have wanted.

Together, through a depression, a world war, and the McCarthy era, through job losses and race riots and the joyous births of their two children, Harry and Ruby weathered much and shared an incredible love. But then the inevitable happened. One of them had to go first. When Ruby was ninety-one, she contracted leukemia and died. Alone for the first time in his life, Harry felt the loss acutely and terribly, and for a long while, despite continued good health, he was uncertain about whether he could go on without Ruby. It was then that he turned to the past for solace–and ended up fulfilling a lifelong dream of becoming a published author.

Delightful and hopeful, tender and moving, The Golden Willow is Harry’s tribute to his beloved Ruby, to their long, happy life together, to the impact her parting had on his heart and his soul, and to the surprises and unexpected pleasures that continue to await him.


From the Hardcover edition.
An astonishing story that puts a human face on the ongoing debate about immigration reform in the United States, now updated with a new Epilogue and Afterword, photos of Enrique and his family, an author interview, and more—the definitive edition of a classic of contemporary America
 
Based on the Los Angeles Times newspaper series that won two Pulitzer Prizes, one for feature writing and another for feature photography, this page-turner about the power of family is a popular text in classrooms and a touchstone for communities across the country to engage in meaningful discussions about this essential American subject.
  
Enrique’s Journey recounts the unforgettable quest of a Honduran boy looking for his mother, eleven years after she is forced to leave her starving family to find work in the United States. Braving unimaginable peril, often clinging to the sides and tops of freight trains, Enrique travels through hostile worlds full of thugs, bandits, and corrupt cops. But he pushes forward, relying on his wit, courage, hope, and the kindness of strangers. As Isabel Allende writes: “This is a twenty-first-century Odyssey. If you are going to read only one nonfiction book this year, it has to be this one.”
 
Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader’s Circle for author chats and more. 

“Magnificent . . . Enrique’s Journey is about love. It’s about family. It’s about home.”—The Washington Post Book World
 
“[A] searing report from the immigration frontlines . . . as harrowing as it is heartbreaking.”—People (four stars)
 
“Stunning . . . As an adventure narrative alone, Enrique’s Journey is a worthy read. . . . Nazario’s impressive piece of reporting [turns] the current immigration controversy from a political story into a personal one.”—Entertainment Weekly
 
“Gripping and harrowing . . . a story begging to be told.”—The Christian Science Monitor
 
“[A] prodigious feat of reporting . . . [Sonia Nazario is] amazingly thorough and intrepid.”—Newsday


From the Trade Paperback edition.
“There are places that I have never forgotten. A little cobbled street in a smoky mill town in the North of England has haunted me for the greater part of my life. It was inevitable that I should write about it and the people who lived on both sides of its ‘Invisible Wall.’ ”

The narrow street where Harry Bernstein grew up, in a small English mill town, was seemingly unremarkable. It was identical to countless other streets in countless other working-class neighborhoods of the early 1900s, except for the “invisible wall” that ran down its center, dividing Jewish families on one side from Christian families on the other. Only a few feet of cobblestones separated Jews from Gentiles, but socially, it they were miles apart.

On the eve of World War I, Harry’s family struggles to make ends meet. His father earns little money at the Jewish tailoring shop and brings home even less, preferring to spend his wages drinking and gambling. Harry’s mother, devoted to her children and fiercely resilient, survives on her dreams: new shoes that might secure Harry’s admission to a fancy school; that her daughter might marry the local rabbi; that the entire family might one day be whisked off to the paradise of America.

Then Harry’s older sister, Lily, does the unthinkable: She falls in love with Arthur, a Christian boy from across the street.

When Harry unwittingly discovers their secret affair, he must choose between the morals he’s been taught all his life, his loyalty to his selfless mother, and what he knows to be true in his own heart.

A wonderfully charming memoir written when the author was ninety-three, The Invisible Wall vibrantly brings to life an all-but-forgotten time and place. It is a moving tale of working-class life, and of the boundaries that can be overcome by love.


From the Hardcover edition.
Harry Bernstein started chronicling his life at the age of ninety-four, after the death of his beloved wife, Ruby. In his first book, The Invisible Wall, he told a haunting story of forbidden love in World War I-era England. Then Bernstein wrote The Dream, the touching tale of his family’s immigrant experience in Depression-era Chicago and New York. Now Bernstein completes the saga with The Golden Willow, a heart-lifting memoir of his life with Ruby, a romance that lasted nearly seventy years.

They met at a dance at New York’s legendary Webster Hall, fell instantly and madly in love, and embarked on a rich and rewarding life together. From their first tiny rented room on the Upper West Side to their years in Greenwich Village, immersed in the art scene, surrounded by dancers, musicians, and writers, to their life in the newly burgeoning suburbs, Harry and Ruby pursued the American dream with gusto, much as Harry’s late mother would have wanted.

Together, through a depression, a world war, and the McCarthy era, through job losses and race riots and the joyous births of their two children, Harry and Ruby weathered much and shared an incredible love. But then the inevitable happened. One of them had to go first. When Ruby was ninety-one, she contracted leukemia and died. Alone for the first time in his life, Harry felt the loss acutely and terribly, and for a long while, despite continued good health, he was uncertain about whether he could go on without Ruby. It was then that he turned to the past for solace–and ended up fulfilling a lifelong dream of becoming a published author.

Delightful and hopeful, tender and moving, The Golden Willow is Harry’s tribute to his beloved Ruby, to their long, happy life together, to the impact her parting had on his heart and his soul, and to the surprises and unexpected pleasures that continue to await him.


From the Hardcover edition.
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