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Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Readers' Favorite
James W Haddad's 56th Street is a powerfully moving work of literary fiction about one girl's traumatic experiences growing up in Liberty City, both as a child and later as an adult. This book is compelling and is as intimate as a first-person memoir, thanks to the insightful and empathetic writing of Haddad. Home is supposed to be a safe haven, but it's far from that for a girl living in a Miami ghetto. She suffers trauma at the hands of an abusive older brother. She does what she can to survive and protect her young siblings from abuse. Torn between family, safety, and freedom, she chooses to escape by marrying the first man she meets, thinking this will end her torment. Little does she know, trauma follows her.
Haddad puts a face on childhood trauma and its after-effects with Rosie's story. I like how he puts us into the girl's mindset on the first pages - right into her family dynamics; the very ones that help perpetuate the abuse. He shows the clashing, confusing realities. On one hand, they watch cartoons like any other family. On the other, they are a family of abuse and secrets. I also like the author's commitment to showing what abuse looks like. You will feel for Rosie and the other characters, and will so many times want to tell her to avoid choices that will hurt her in the long run, but some lessons are learned only by living them, and by judgment clouded by trauma. Trigger warnings may apply because there are parts of this story that may anger, frighten, or re-traumatize you. Being a former child/adult protection social worker, I recommend 56th Street by James W Haddad to anyone living with childhood trauma.