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Tales of Two Cities – The Best and Worst of Times in Today’s New York

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Original Language: English (USA) | 380 pp. | Sept 2014

2 Seas Represents: French, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish Rights.
 

Rights Sold: France (Actes Sud), Brazil (Bertrand), China (Shanghai Insight), Italy (Stampa Alternativa), Spanish world (Nórdica), US/UK trade (PenguinRandom).
 

SHORT STORIES | LITERARY FICTION  

“A bristling portrayal of New York in the tradition of Jacob Riis.” —Guernica

“Above all else, the anthology, full of pieces varied in tone and deeply personal perspectives, helps convey the reality of today’s economic inequality in ways that an academic tome simply can’t. ” —Sheila Bapat, Feministing

“Beautifully careworn.” —Flavorwire

Edited by former Granta Literary Magazine editor John Freeman — illustrated by Molly Crabapple.

Published in association with Housing Works.

With contributions from: GARNETTE CADOGAN, BILL CHENG, TEJU COLE, LYDIA DAVIS, JONATHAN DEE, JUNOT DÍAZ, MARK DOTY, DAVE EGGERS, JONATHAN SAFRAN FOER, D.W. GIBSON, CHAASADAHYAH JACKSON, SARAH JAFFE, LAWRENCE JOSEPH, VICTOR LaVALLE, VALERIA LUISELLI, COLUM McCANN, DINAW MENGESTU, TÉA OBREHT, PATRICK RYAN, MICHAEL SALU, ROSIE SCHAAP, TAIYE SELASI, AKHIL SHARMA, ZADIE SMITH, JEANNE THORNTON, HANNAH TINTI, MARIA VENEGAS, and EDMUND WHITE

Growing inequality is today a world-wide phenomenon. But it is at its most acute in the “world cities” where the rich choose to live (or invest their fortunes in real estate). Nowhere is this more evident than New York City, where the top 1% earns upwards of $500,000/year, while 22,000 children are homeless.

What does this chasm of wealth feel like to people who live and work in NYC? The stories in Tales of Two Cities mix fiction and reportage to convey the indignities and heartbreak, the callousness and solidarities, of living side-by-side with people who have a stupefyingly different income.

In these pages we read of the polarizing effect of a violent attack on the Q train as it crosses the Manhattan Bridge, of the subterranean lives of homeless people who must find a bed in the city’s underground tunnels, and of the rage felt by a millionaire at being stuck in a snowstorm. We hear of the stresses that burgeoning gentrification can bring to neighbours in a Brooklyn apartment block, and of the way destitution in India shapes the perception of poverty in New York for an immigrant from the sub-continent. We walk past the luxury pet spas and yoga studios that have opened next to cheap hair braiding salons and detox clinics in Hamilton Heights, witness the shenanigans of seriously alienated night shift paralegals, and find out what it’s like to be a housing defendant standing up for tenants whose landlords go to shocking lengths to raise rents.

Eschewing more direct sociological or economic analysis, the pieces here focus on the human dimension of penury and profligacy coexisting in the tightest of quarters. In his successful election campaign, Mayor Bill de Blasio referred often to the “tale of two cities” that is life in today’s New York. With writing that will move the reader, not just emotionally but perhaps, too, to action, this anthology gives life to the meaning of those words in the streets and buildings of the metropolis.

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Freeman_TALES OF TWO CITIES_Actes Sud_November 2015 copy

France (Actes Sud)