Posted by: James Atticus Bowden | July 8, 2009

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

My wife finished the book – part of her Summer fare.  So, we watched the Elia Kazan-directed 1947 movie.  Loved it. 

My grandparents’ generation was born in the 1880/1890s.  So, even though they weren’t urban immigrants their life experiences had many parallels with the characters in the movie/book.   I knew my People well from my childhood – and on, since some of them lived into their 90s (to our 1980s decade).

How powerful those connections between generations that make history, literature and cinema come alive as emotional, intellectual truth to me.  Of course, life is far more complex than a book or a movie or a shelves of both.   But, striped to its essence as books and movies do, the story carries the narrative of human lives I’ve known and loved.   And millions unknown to me but beloved by fellow Americans. 

Reminds me that the Old Testament sanction that sin corrupts the blood for four generations doesn’t mean God punishes three innocent generations.  It may be interpreted as the fact that we know our parents and grandparents.  Our grandparents tell us about their parents and grandparents.  The oral history doesn’t go much further than that in any detail. 

For example, all that was passed to me about the Clan Gunn was that once (1585) there was a big battle where the Clan got in house on a hill and our ancestral enemies from two clans attacked up the hill and were slaughtered.  That’s it.  A nameless and undated (until I looked it up) victory was passed down for over 400 years.  Nothing else. 

Bring into four generations and there are names, dates, places and stories – and sayings.  For better or worse we are linked four generations back and four to come – if we make our presence felt. 

Now, I need to add a “Tree Grows in Brooklyn” to my stack of books to read.


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