We are proud to announce that BookBrowse has won Platinum in the 2024 Modern Library Awards.

Excerpt from The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan J. Gilman, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street

by Susan J. Gilman

The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan J. Gilman X
The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan J. Gilman
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jun 2014, 512 pages

    Paperback:
    Jul 2015, 528 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Rory L. Aronsky
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


Let me start back at the beginning, before satellite trucks were parked across the street, blocking my driveway. Before our "Sundaes on Saturdays" campaign, the Mocktail Milkshakes, and Spreckles the Clown. I'll begin on the sweltering Lower East Side of Manhattan, with the peddler with the horse-drawn cart: A rotund, sweating man. Salvatore Dinello. His last name was stenciled on the side of his wagon in flaking red and gold paint. DINELLO'S ICES. He was the last of his kind, really. Most other vendors had already started working for wholesalers by then. Mr. Dinello wore a slouch cap and a brown canvas smock. Instead of shouting like the other hawkers, he sang. "I-SEES, I-SEES." Like an aria. Oh, it was marvelous. I could hear his baritone all the way down Hester Street, above the incredible din.

Dinello's Ices came in lemon and sometimes cherry. They had the consistency of snow. Once, when Flora and I were supposed to be fetching dinner, I bought a scoop for us instead. We de- voured it—cherry, I remember—and our mouths turned lurid, candy red. It was delicious. It was a delirium. But immediately afterward—oh, such guilt we felt! That two cents was supposed to go for a potato. From then on, I tried to keep my distance.

But whenever we were on Hester Street, I'd watch longingly as Mr. Dinello scooped a small, glittering mound into his tiny glass cup for a customer. The customer licked the cup clean, then handed it back to Mr. Dinello, who rinsed it out in a zinc pail dangling from the back of his wagon. He used the same cup for each person. That's just how it was back then.

Our family didn't have a penny when we stepped off the boat. But whose did? The people who arrived in America with money, their stories aren't interesting. So your eldest brother, Lord Such- and-Such, inherited the family estate, and you, Poor Thing, had to make your fortune in the New World instead? Please. Don't even bother me with that.

At the time of my accident, we were living in a tenement on Orchard Street, on the fourth floor in the back. We paid a tailor named Mr. Lefkowitz two dollars a week to let us sleep in his parlor. Mama took cushions from the settee and spread them across a pair of creaky wooden crates. During the day she worked for Mr. Lefkowitz cutting patterns with two other women in the front room in a cloud of airborne fibers.

When he wasn't in the streets himself, Papa worked for Mr. Lefkowitz, too. He pressed shirts with a heavy iron heated up on the stove in the kitchen. When the hot metal hissed against the cotton, it smelled like burnt vanilla. I loved that smell. Years later I tried to re-create it in our laboratory.

My parents worked within seven feet of each other. And yet, they weren't speaking.

Their plan, you see, hadn't been to go to America at all.

  • 1
  • 2

Excerpted from the book The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman. Copyright © 2014 by Susan Jane Gilman. Reprinted by permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  The History of Ice Cream

Support BookBrowse

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Wild and Distant Seas
    Wild and Distant Seas
    by Tara Karr Roberts
    Tara Karr Roberts is a newspaper columnist who also teaches English and journalism. Wild and Distant...
  • Book Jacket: The Djinn Waits a Hundred Years
    The Djinn Waits a Hundred Years
    by Shubnum Khan
    Shubnum Khan's eloquent and moving debut novel opens in 1932, when a djinn that haunts a house by ...
  • Book Jacket: Transient and Strange
    Transient and Strange
    by Nell Greenfieldboyce
    Throughout her powerful essay collection, Transient and Strange, science reporter Nell ...
  • Book Jacket: Prophet Song
    Prophet Song
    by Paul Lynch
    Paul Lynch's 2023 Booker Prize–winning Prophet Song is a speedboat of a novel that hurtles...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
Mockingbird Summer
by Lynda Rutledge
A powerful and emotional coming-of-age novel set in the 1960s by the bestselling author of West with Giraffes.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Strong Passions
    by Barbara Weisberg

    Shocking revelations of a wife's adultery in 19th New York explode in an incendiary trial exposing the upper-crust and its secrets.

  • Book Jacket

    Leaving
    by Roxana Robinson

    An engrossing exploration of the vows we make to one another and what we owe to others and ourselves.

Win This Book
Win The Cleaner

The Cleaner
by Brandi Wells

Rarely has cubicle culture been depicted in such griminess or with such glee."
PW (starred review)

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

I Wouldn't T H W A T-F P

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.