1 June 2015

Review #233 with Giveaway and Interview: Upper West Side Story by Susan Pashman

My rating:
5 of 5 stars

“Our true nationality is mankind.”

----H.G. Wells

Susan Pashman, an American author, debuts as an author with her novel, Upper West Side Story that revolves around the relationships and friendships beyond color and how dirty politics can put innocent people behind the bars.


The narrator, Bettina Grosjean, is a professor of Women’s History, and her husband, a high-ranking environmental policymaker in the New York City mayor’s office. Once a pair of student radicals, they are now raising their two brainy children on New York’s Upper West Side.

Their fierce parental love is tested in a startling eruption of racial hostility and political chicanery within the very community they have long loved and helped to build. Their world is suddenly thrown into crisis by a shocking and tragic event: During a school field trip, their son Max and his best friend, Cyrus, are horsing around when, in a freak accident, Cyrus falls down a flight of stairs, and dies a few days later.

The fact that Cyrus is black, that his mother is Bettina’s closest friend--that jealousy, suspicion and resentment have long been simmering in the community, and that there are powerful political forces at work as well--all conspire to reveal an ugly underbelly of the community the Grosjeans have worked so hard to shape into a model of an enlightened, multiracial world.

Upper West Side Story portrays a remarkable multi-racial friendship, the love of two women united by their ideals and their devotion to their children, then divided by events that spiral out of control.

With cries for racial justice again rising up all over our country, Upper West Side Story is a story you will want to read.

Max and Cyrus, and along with them their moms too, have an unbreakable interracial friendship. But one sudden school trip changes the course of that friendship, when Cyrus dies in a fall and everyone from that trip started blaming Max for the offense. Things get worse when Max is convicted and sent to a Juvenile detention center and consequently, the whole town from the so-called friends and other folks from Max's father's co-workers point finger on Max. Will Cyrus' mother ever forgive Max? Or worse, will be ever get out of prison?

The writing is quite flawless and the author have included so many technical know-hows behind the world of politics, especially she featured the dark side of politics. The author have layered her plot with great details and right emotions, I mean, the more I read, the more it infuriated me with anger and at the same time, it made me sad. The narrative is very catchy thus giving a fast pace to the storyline.

The characters are all very well-developed, especially the primary character, Bettina, max's mother, who is a perfect epitome of a loving and fighting mother. The author have made us contemplate with her character by occasionally throwing us with a lot of back story. Her motherly love and especially her love for a black woman is unmatched and because of her determination and for not giving-up, I loved her character a lot. Max is a smart character, and we get to know him through his journals and I liked how being so young, he acted like a mature boy.

Moreover the relationships between not only two friends but the relation between a husband and a wife is depicted compassionately and how this conviction brings them together apart from their differences. The book screams with hope and I loved how with the progress of the story, the author brought light into the fact that hope is the only thing that lets us see the light at the end of a dark tunnel.

Overall it's an interesting as well as an emotional story that brings people from different races together and fight for one thing.

Verdict: A perfect book for all the contemporary fiction lovers.

Courtesy: I received the book for a blog tour. 

Book Purchase Links:

Author Interview:

Me: Hello and welcome to my blog, Susan. Congratulations on your new book, Upper West Side Story. Please share with us the story behind your book, Upper West Side Story.

The book got started at a Thanksgiving dinner fourteen years ago. My brother was very pleased that eight black children were going to be joining his son in his son's almost all white class.He thought it would be a "good experience" for his son to get to know black kids his age. I asked how he would feel if his son were among eight white students chosen to be sent to a mostly black school so that black kids could get to know how white kids are.
It was my young nephew, listening in, who really got the point I was making. I was worried about the effect on the kids, both black and white.
That night, falling asleep, I wondered what could go wrong in this plan.
And from that, the book started taking shape in my mind.

Me: What was your inspiration behind the book, Upper West Side Story?

Raising my own boys in the city, I had had many experiences of trying to explain some very difficult issues to them. Why, asked my younger son, had he been stopped by a classmate on his walk to school and had his sneakers stolen right off his feet? He'd had to walk to school in his socks. His classmate had sneakers of his own.
It was terribly difficult to explain the anger that my son's classmate felt and why he would take sneakers he didn't need. it hurt m deeply that my sons had to lose their open, innocent approaches to life so early on. Some of their stories are in the book as adventures of the young boy at the center of the story.

Me: How did you research for this book, Upper West Side Story? Did you have to travel extensively for the purpose of research?

I have relied on many years of personal experience for this book. Aside from the years spent raising two boys in New York City, I am an attorney and much of the plot is driven by legal maneuvering. I am also a philosophy professor and, like the main narrator in this book, am very familiar with academic politics. While I was in law school, I served as an intern in the New York City mayor's office; that's where I got most of the material for the father who is in charge of environmental issues in the mayor's office. Finally, there are several chapters that take place in a juvenile detention facility, somewhere I'd never been. My brother is an Assistant District Attorney in the Bronx, and he arranged for me to spend a day at a juvenile facility in the East Bronx. That was a fascinating day; I asked lots of questions and took lots of notes.

Me: Tell us one trait of your main protagonist, Bettina Grosjean, that intrigues you the most?

Bettina is a very admirable idealist. Her problem in her marriage is that, although her husband was a radical protester as a student just as she was, he has matured and knows how to play the games that politicians must play. In the course of the novel, Bettina, who is a professor of Women's Studies and so spends her days in academe,  struggles as she realizes that she has to grow up as well and learn to make compromises, learn to play the game.

Me: How will you describe your journey so far as an author?
This is my second novel. When I began it, racial issues were a hot topic and when Obama made his acceptance speech after winning his first presidential election, I was overjoyed for him and also worried about whether my book had just lost ground. I thought perhaps race issues would vanish after Obama took office.
But here we are in the midst of terrible racial crises. Now my book is on the cutting edge of what is happening in our country. I"m very sad that our racial progress has moved almost backward, but I have to be glad that it is helping this book.
That said, I'm not sure I will write another novel very soon. I am, after all, a philosophy professor and I am at work on two books that are not fiction, but what you could call popular philosophy.

Me: Was it always your one true dream to be an author?

I am not a person with one true dream. I take an interest in something and pursue it. I continue to love philosophy and learn more about it every day, and I love teaching adults, something I've been doing for fifteen years. But I also love writing. A little over a year ago, I took a year off to write the doctoral dissertation that I had had to abandon when i found myself with two sons to raise on my own. At that point I went to law school so I could support my family. Now I have a dissertation that is ready to be turned into a book for the layman and I am very excited about doing that. I am also just about finished with a book about Sabbath-keeping; it's a book that uses many of the world's most important philosophers to shed light on ways that Sabbath-keeping might be meaningful to people today. So, those are two non-fiction books on the horizon but I love the philosophizing that goes into them as much as I love writing.
I have never found writing difficult, always found it a joy. But with this second book, I know that there is a business side to the effort which is not at all enjoyable for me.
By the way, while this novel was in the works, I also earned two graduate degrees in Landscape Design and History and my dissertation is a philosophical analysis of landscape art.
So you see, I have managed to develop a lot of different passions and have put a lot of energy into indulging them. As I said, I follow my interests where they take me and love the whole journey or I get off the bus.

Me: How will your describe your normal writing day? And what do you do to get away from the stress of a long day's work?

  Having learned that no one focuses efficiently for more than two hours, I try to write early in the day for two hours. It's hard to stop, but I know it's a good thing to do. When I take a break, I try to do something with my fingers and give my mind a rest. I work in my garden, I prep food for lunch or dinner, I do housework. After lunch, I go back and work over what I wrote earlier and try to move further. I usually need to just hang out in the afternoon but I can be very productive after dinner until around nine o'clock at night. Somewhere in all that I take a 45 minute walk.
I'm very organized and disciplined. My vacations consist of going somewhere I love --Italy or Tel Aviv--and working at about the same schedule but walking on beaches or through old Italian villages instead of working in the garden or the kitchen.
Finally, I have to say that I adore my bathtub which is fitted out with a Jacuzzi and surrounded by windows that look out toward a forest. I designed this house for myself and the bathtub is in exactly the right place.

Me: What other passions do your have apart from writing?

Gardening is something I love. I created a very complex landscape for my home and dug in all the shrubs and trees myself. Now I have to feed all my creatures and trim them and water them and keep the deer away from them. I love tending to the garden and watching things come to life there.

The only thing I can do without being productive is listen to music. I love Mahler and can lie quietly for hours getting lost in his music.

Me: What's next up on your writing sleeves? Please tell us briefly about it.

Once I can stop all the promotional work for this new novel, I will return to the final re-write of "Journey To A Temple In Time: A Philosopher's Quest For The Sabbath." I have an agent for that book and as soon as I'm satisfied with it, I'll send it to her and see if she is also satisfied. Then I will take a deep breath and dig into my dissertation and try to put together a proposal for a book. based on it.  I'm going to try to get a big chunk of that done before the Sabbath book gets published because I know that then I will have to return to this business of promotion. This is really the least enjoyable part of writing, as I'm sure others have told you.

Me: Thank you so much Susan for joining me today on this interview session. I wish you luck in all your future endeavors. have a great day.

Thank you giving me this opportunity to reach readers and other writers. I've enjoyed answering all your very good questions and hope I've provided some good reasons for people to want to read Upper West Side Story..

Author Info:

Susan Pashman is a philosophy professor and former attorney. While in law school, she served a year in the New York City Council President’s office; some of what she learned there has found its way into this story. But most of this book derives from her experience of raising two boys on her own in Brooklyn. Many of her sons’ childhood exploits, and the hopes and fears she had for them, became the heart of this novel.
She now resides in Sag Harbor, New York, with her husband, Jack Weinstein.

Connect with Susan:  Website ~  Facebook Twitter  ~  Goodreads


Win one of 15 copies of Upper West Side Story (Print for USA & Canada - ebook for international) One winner will also get a $25 Amazon Gift Card
Ends June 18. So good luck!

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  1. Well I'm from New York and all to familiar with racial issues. Upper West Side Story sounds like a book I would be interested in reading. Thank you

  2. Wow, the book looks interesting and it seems like the type of book that I like to read.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. It looks like a great read and I need a new book to read when we go to the park.

  5. The story looks interesting and original :-)


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