cover image Eleven Stories High

Eleven Stories High

Corinne Demas. State University of New York Press, $55.5 (189pp) ISBN 978-0-7914-4629-4

Demas displays fine skills of observation in an otherwise slight memoir of growing up in a unique apartment complex. Designed as an ideal middle-class community in Manhattan, Stuyvesant Town occupies 18 square blocks; its brick buildings shut out the bustling city beyond the perimeter. Opened in 1947, the complex housed 9,000 qualified families, who, according to the author, were white and predominantly Jewish. These new residents placed a high value on education and the arts; in a particularly enjoyable chapter about the prevalence of music lessons, Demas notes that pianos ""seemed like basic appliances"" in Stuyvesant Town. Demas's Greek parents fully shared their neighbors' values. A comfortable, two-career couple (her father was a dentist, her mother a high school biology teacher), they sent their only child to competitive public schools. The book is most lively and engaging when Demas describes her family: her father haunted by his WWII memories or enjoying the camaraderie of fellow Greeks; her mother, in true '50s style, handling the domestic responsibilities. But Demas's depiction of apartment living--elevators, laundry rooms, lack of pets and most significantly, the close proximity to neighbors--may be most revealing to readers unfamiliar with apartment life. Many readers, however, will want more insight into the psychological makeup of Demas's family and the talented author. B&w photos. (Aug.)