Just last week, two-time Newbery Honor-winning Patricia Reilly Giff released “Gingersnap,” a heartfelt novel depicting Brooklyn during World War II. A Brooklyn native herself, Giff reveals to young readers a life in the city dominated by the harsh implications of war. She tells the story of Jayna: a lonely orphan whose brother goes off to fight, Jayna resolves to uncover her family ties in Brooklyn. In celebration of the launch of “Gingersnap,” Brooklyn Eagle spoke to Giff about her Brooklyn roots. She recalls spending summer days on Coney Island and shares with us which Brooklyn spots she makes a habit of visiting when she returns to the borough with her family.
WHERE IN BROOKLYN DID YOU GROW UP?
One by one they came to Brooklyn: my immigrant forebears. It was the magic place where my parents grew up, along with assorted aunts, uncles and cousins. I was born in Bay Ridge and even when we moved to Queens, we still considered ourselves Brooklynites. We visited Holy Cross Cemetery on soft spring days, shopped along Fulton Street, sat in the bleachers at Ebbetts Field, praying for our beloved Dodgers to win the pennant. Brooklyn was Thanksgiving on Midwood Street; it was holding my father’s hand, looking up at that beautiful bridge. It was my husband’s growing up place. It was home.
IN GINGERSNAP YOU FEATURE CONEY ISLAND. DO YOU HAVE A PARTICULAR NOSTALGIA FOR THE NEIGHBORHOOD?
Ah, Coney Island: hot summer days on the beach eating wonderful lunches from my grandmother’s picnic basket, admiring my sister’s courage as she rode the Parachute Jump with my father, catching the ring on the carousel. Later, I walked the boardwalk with my husband who was a detective in the Sixty-First precinct.
NOW THAT YOU’RE SETTLED IN CONNECTICUT, WHAT DO YOU MISS MOST ABOUT LIVING IN BROOKLYN?
Did we ever really leave? I’m not so sure. We still go back for lunch at Brendan and Carr’s, or dinner at Peter Luger’s. We walk the streets of Carroll Gardens, of Greenpoint. I feel my parents there, and my great-grandmother who came believing there were diamonds in the streets. Well, maybe there aren’t diamonds, but there might as well be.