cover image Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy

Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy

Albert Marrin, Knopf, $19.99 (192p) ISBN 978-0-375-86889-4

Published to coincide with the centennial anniversary of the 1911 fire that erupted in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, this powerful chronicle examines the circumstances surrounding the disaster, which resulted in the deaths of 146 workers, mostly young Italian and Jewish women. Though America represented opportunity for immigrants escaping religious persecution, disease, and natural disaster, New York City was sharply divided between the elite and those who, Marrin modestly writes, "lived more simply." B&w photographs and illustrations reveal immigrant families' impoverished living environments, while testimonials describe the "humiliating" work rules and unsafe conditions of factories like Triangle ("Slavery holds nothing worse," expressed one worker). Despite workers' efforts to organize, it took a preventable disaster to enact real change. Marrin (Years of Dust) mines eyewitness accounts of flaming bodies, and also imagines a victim's horrific internal monologue: "If I jump, my family will have a body to identify and bury, but if I stay in this room, there will be nothing left." A concluding description of a Bangladeshi garment factory fire in 2010 offers contemporary parallels. Marrin's message that protecting human dignity is our shared responsibility is vitally resonant. Ages 10–up. (Feb.)