"Early-20th-century Russia and New York are vividly rendered in this affecting debut that centers on a Jewish family’s immigrant experience. Amid escalating anti-Semitism, a brutal pogrom against Jewish businesses and individuals commences in Kishinev on Easter in 1903. Meyer Raisky; his wife, Sadie; and their 13-year-old daughter, Miriam lose family, friends, and their livelihood. They leave for America, joining relatives on the Lower East Side, where Meyer becomes a pushcart peddler, Sadie sews, and Miriam works in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory sweatshop. Unfortunate events including Meyer’s head injury and inability to work and Sadie’s brother-in-law walking out on his family heighten the realization that this is not the better life the family had hoped for. Emboldened by work indignities, a layoff, and a romance with a union organizer, Miriam pickets in the 1910 garment workers’ strike; the following year, she barely escapes the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which claimed 146 lives and led to industry reforms. Friedman captures the essence of a tight-knit, observant Jewish family beset with tragedy, squeezed by hard times, and defined by historical events. Friedman makes a potent statement about the resiliency of the human spirit."
"In Friedman’s debut work of historical fiction, a Jewish family flees persecution in Russia and makes a new life in New York City in the early 1900s.
The Raisky family—father Meyer, mother Sadie, and daughter Miriam—goes on the run after a pogrom targets the Jewish community in Kishinev, Russia. They pay a smuggler to help them escape the country and secure passage across the Atlantic to the United States, where Sadie’s sister had previously settled. In New York City’s Lower East Side, they discover that life as an immigrant in America is much harder than they had imagined. Teenage daughter Miriam drops out of school to get a job at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory to help make ends meet. Long hours, low pay, and dangerous work conditions motivate her to join an effort to unionize the city’s shirtwaist companies, and she meets a handsome young labor organizer named Jacob. She also makes friends with girls from the factory, who join the union effort. The author effectively harks back to the government inaction during the Russian pogroms as the New York police and local politicians stand by as hired thugs beat up the union organizers. However, the union members’ worst fears about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory are realized in a horrifying tragedy. Overall, this work of historical fiction is impeccably researched and told with great heart, and as a result, it manages to bring an important era in history to life. Friedman describes New York during this time in great detail, describing bustling streetscapes and providing readers with a compelling sense of what living in cramped, squalid tenement apartments was really like—freezing in winter, scorching in summer, with paper-thin walls and little privacy.
Heartbreak, history and hope combine in this atmospheric novel."
"I thought I knew the history of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory; I also thought I knew the chronology of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union and the challenges of immigrants who arrived in the United States at the turn of the century during the early twentieth century. I never realized how much I did not know until I read Sharon Gloger Friedman’s book, Ashes. She linked the accounts of all these historical events while creating characters that stimulated emotions in me from love to anger. Only a gifted and versatile writer like Friedman can succeed in evoking such an array of emotions in her readers. Thank you!
The beginning of the book about the 1903 pogrom in Kishinev, Russia is factual, and although many of us know the pogroms existed, I and others may not have known the horrible details that Friedman researched and included in the novel. I was too young to ask my own grandparents about their immigrant experiences, but Sharon Gloger Friedman succeeded in giving me more than just a glimpse into not only the hardships, issues, and obstacles the newcomers to the country faced, but also the friendships and relationships they may have formed during their struggles to survive in their new home.
Since reading Ashes, I’ve purchased a couple of copies to give as gifts; that is probably the best recommendation a reader can give to an author."
- Rita Gold
"Beauty really can rise up out of ashes. This novel grabbed me from the start as I learned about an awful event in Russian history that I'd been unaware of before. Right away I cared for the family and especially Miriam as they make their way to America only to find that challenges, although different, would continue to plague them. Through the story of one family, its friends, a factory, and living in NYC's Lower East Side, we get to experience the true American immigrant's journey. Although the subject matter is truthful, Friedman never allows the story to get bogged down in sadness. At its heart is a tender love story, and the faithful hope and work ethic that drove people with so little to rise above. Highly recommended."
- Ann Howard Creel, Author of Mercy Road, The Uncertain Season, and The Whiskey Sea
"The book was incredibly well-written and the characters are all very well developed. I loved the fact the author put the date at the beginning of each chapter. It allows the reader to recognize how much time is passing. The whole story was described with such detail that it made me feel like I was actually there. If you're looking for a page-turning, exciting, and entertaining read....look no further!"
- Joyce Stewart Book Reviews
“This beautifully written novel of the horrendous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911 is Friedman’s debut in historical fiction. I certainly hope she will write more books in this genre.
The Raisky family endures one tragedy after another – the horrific pogroms in Russia in 1903 which resulted in the death of many Jews, leaving their home country to escape persecution in Russia, daily financial struggles as they settle into New York’s lower east side, and finally the fire. Yet in the midst of all this tragedy could be found love and hope.
All the characters were wonderfully developed and came to life as I read about them. The story focuses on the Raisky family as they adapt to life in America. While the primary focus is on daughter Miriam, we also experience the heartbreaking and heartwarming moments of the entire family - father Meir, mother Sadie, Sadie’s sister Malka, and Malka’s children. I felt pride as Malka’s son Avrum, just a child, stood up to his abusive father. I ached for Miriam’s friends – sweet funny little Osna, happy loving Rivka, Angie and Ambra – as they grasped to hold on to their hopes and dreams. And at the end I was holding my breath, wondering which of them would survive the fire. I struggled with the fear each girl experienced as she fought bravely to escape the fire, and the terror and anguish of their loved ones as they learned who lived and who died. I also felt angry toward the people who allowed such deplorable work conditions to exist, people who were never held accountable for the loss of innocent lives.
It must have been very difficult for Friedman to write this story as it is obvious she was emotionally committed to it. She described in vivid detail how New York was during this era and how difficult life was – limited employment, low wages, crowded filthy tenement houses. The pacing was excellent as the closer we got to the date of the fire, the shorter the time intervals of the chapters. Once I reached March 1911 I found myself dreading what was to come and hoping that for some reason the girls would not go to work on March 25, 1911.
I highly recommend this book if you love historical fiction.”
-Betty Taylor, Reviewer, Reading is My Passion
“Sharon Friedman's Ashes is a triumph of Jewish resilience and fortitude through unimaginable horrors. This story is an amazing depiction of Russian Jews and the persecution they experienced in Russia that caused families to emigrate to New York. The horror of beatings and killings of their loved-ones in Russia is replaced by the struggle and drudgery of working in the shirtwaist factory. They bond together to form a union, but would it enough to save them? This is a great book for those who want to understand Jewish history better. The writing is desvcriptive and brings you into these peoples’ lives like they are best friends. Hard to believe life was so hard for them.”
- Rebecca Rosenberg, author of Gold Digger: The Remarkable Baby Doe Tabor, and the IPPY Awards Gold Medal winner, The Secret Life of Mrs. London.
"Ashes by Sharon Gloger Friedman is a beautiful written, emotional book. It is an example of a deep love for family, for tradition, and the right we have to stand up for ourselves, even when it is scary. I feel like I learned some things through reading this book. I learned about how Jews were treated horribly by some neighbors and people in their community. People they had considered friends, looted and attacked them. I learned about Jewish traditions and I learned about how sometimes you have to fight for the rights of yourself and others. And even when it is so very hard, you have to dig deeper sometimes to keep going. This is a book that will stick with me. There were a couple of times I had to put it down because what I had read was so much to take in. The words that are written are powerful. I hope others read this book. Maybe if more people do, our world, as a whole, will all be a little more kind. I urge you to read this book. It was so good. Miriam’s story will be with me for many years to come. Absolutely 5 stars."
- Janell Madison, Green Gables Book Reviews
“Best book you’ll read this Year! This book was outstanding from beginning to end. Character development was so good that I felt a part of the families, including the joys and tragedy they experienced. Although this was a novel, the historical elements were factually accurate and reflected the stark realities of the immigrant experience and labor injustices during the early part of the 20th century in America. I read a lot of novels by well known, established authors. This new author ranks right up there with the best. I look forward to her next book.”
- Steven Simon, Ph.D.
"Ashes blew me away, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in American historical fiction or Jewish culture! The book provides a harrowing glimpse at the lethal consequences of anti-Semitism and what life was like for Jewish people and immigrants alike in 1900s Russia and America, and how the strength of the human spirit can conquer the tribulations that life throws at people. Ms. Friedman, thank you so much for the opportunity to review your work! I look forward to seeing more from you in the future!"
-Bitty Book Nook
"Spanning countries and, cultures, a tight knit loving family forge ahead in the face of brutal and difficult times. Set at the turn of the century, the family flees Russia's anti-Semitic raids and slaughter to face the hardships and struggles of surviving in a new land -- New York's lower east side. We follow a young girl, uprooted from terror to a new world where she faces abhorrent working conditions. Here she finds her strength, voice, direction and love.This is a beautifully written page turner with well developed characters who stay with you well after you have read the last page. Loved the book!"
"Had the privilege to read the manuscript of this book and I can say it is one of the best stories I have ever read. Couldn't stop as each chapter made you want to know what would come next."
- Kim Lazarovich
“I recently read Sharon Friedman's first novel Ashes. I was blown away by this book. One of those reads that are both entertaining and educational. Incredibly well researched and written, Ashes sucks you in and you become engrossed in the lives of the characters. Each character is so well developed that you celebrate with them through good times and truly feel sorrow for them in bad. They endure unimaginable conditions escaping the pogroms only to face incredible hardship and tragedy in the factories of New York. Through it all they show determination, strength, and a strong family bond that allows them to overcome. An excellent novel and I look forward to reading Sharon Friedman's next work!”
- J. Freed
“An amazing first novel by an author with an immense talent!!”
- Bonnie Salamon, Autumn’s Fire
"Ashes grabbed me from the very beginning. The descriptions of Jewish life and suffering in Russia in the early 20th century were very compelling. I felt that I could see my great-grandparents struggle through those same pogroms. Then the difficult trip to America, where the streets were not paved with gold. This book describes the immigrant experience very vividly through the heroine, Miriam, her family, and her friends. I highly recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction.”
- Judith L. Garcia
“I loved this book. The characters and the story grabbed me right away. Great descriptions of NYC in the early 1900s. Now I want to know what happens with Miriam and Jacob and their families - can’t wait for the next book!”
- Elizabeth A. Sobol
“Downloaded yesterday!!! Amazing!!!!”
- Connie Stern
"I loved this book. It is about so much more than just the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. The story begins in Russia and follows a family who are victims of a pogrom to the Lower East Side of New York. The description of events and the settings are historically accurate and the author paints a compelling picture of life for new immigrants in the early 1900s. I found that I deeply cared about the fictional characters and even though I knew the history, I simply could not put this book down."
- Gail Simon
“A beautiful story, written so very well! The characters came to life right away! I was engaged from page one and had trouble putting it down. Have already started recommending it to others!”
- Terri Gentile
"Loving every page. It is difficult for me to put it down and walk away. Thank you for a great story. I encourage everyone to read it."
- Edie Rosenwasser Rubinstein
"I recently started reading Ashes. I have been totally drawn into the story and the individual lives that Sharon has so accurately described...The story of many or our ancestors drew me to the book in the first place... Now I will have to keep reading to see what happens... I will get back to you...
I finished Ashes last night, and cannot stop thinking about how the immigrants were treated in those sweat shops. The almost inhumane conditions that went on even after the fire, but that fire did bring about important changes. And the Unions were a major part of that. A necessity to combat the greed and intense treatment of young women and men. This is a must read book. I will never forget what was revealed amidst the ability to find love and happiness and to rise about the grief and tragedies that befell the people who were seeking a better life from oppression. “
- Steve Stone
"Sharon Gloger Friedman has written a sensational book. The Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire in 1911 was the deadliest industrial disaster in New York history. Hundreds of workers, mostly female, mostly European immigrants were killed because they were locked in. "Ashes" tells the story of one Jewish immigrant family who escaped religious persecution in Russia to the tenements of New York. The daughter, Miriam, goes to work in the factory...with tragic consequences. This profound and insightful book also deals with themes of religious hatred, the press as propaganda, and the struggle for women's rights in the workplace. Buy it. Read it. It's on Amazon."
- Jerry Greenfield, Ask the Wine Whisperer
"Highly recommend this book. You really get connected to the people. You don't want the book to end. Definitely a must read!"
- Amazon reader
”I inhaled this book and couldn't stop reading until it was finished! The first few chapters do a great job capturing your attention and suddenly you are invested in the characters and their stories. The book is well written and the storyline (centered around immigration, workers' rights, women's rights, family, love, death, poverty etc.) spoke to me. Miriam, the book's heroine, was a symbol of everything you want in a friend, a daughter and ally. I really enjoyed that it was based on real events which influenced the evolution of workplace rights and safety. If you are looking for a unique book of historical fiction, you should read it, you won't be disappointed!“
- Kelly R
“Excellent novel by Ms. Friedman. The story was gripping from the very start. It was very difficult to stop reading at the end of each chapter - I needed to know what happened next. I am a history buff and I enjoyed the historical aspects of life in the early 1900s especially from an immigration perspective. Hard to believe this is Ms. Friedman's first novel - I look forward to her next one!”
- Fred Roth
"This book is a history lesson through an easily relatable compassionate story. It emotionally brought me through what my ancestors went through; I felt like I was there. The characters quickly became very real and relatable. In addition to Eastern European history, it tells us the story of how immigrants, women and factory workers were treated in this country in the early 1900's."
- Terry B
"Telling the “needed to be told” stories of the pogroms and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, the writer involves you in the lives of the characters. It is 5:30 a.m., but I needed to get out of bed and finish this book. I recommend it."
- Phyllis P.
“Sharon Gloger Friedman has brought history to life within the pages of the Historical Fiction novel, Ashes.
The historical aspects of this novel are very well researched as well as versed. If you know little of the Jewish faith, you will learn about historical events such as The Pogroms within the Jewish Community of Russia; it's rage and terror. The calamities, variables and tragedies of the early 20th Century come to light all the while immersing you into its timeline.
One family's horror and loss as well as their strong stance on being true to their religion, to themselves, causes unforeseen choices that need to be made.
As those choices weave into solid decisions of how to escape their nightmares, and on to the States, a new life begins to emerge upon their arrival at Ellis Island. That life becomes abundant in love, beauty and sadness and.... lethal consequences.
The Garment Industry of New York also plays a major roll within this story as to it's workers, the deplorable conditions, its anti- semitism, it's hardship and the harrowing attempts for the right to be treated fairly, and just to the heart of its standing within the community and to its employees. The owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fight against all that is good, all that is right, as their workers are treated as property and nothing more. With that injustice, tragedy ensues.
This is an inspiring tale, through and through. The characters are written as strong, real and believable. This story will not only grab ahold, but it is written fluidly and with true purpose which makes this reading experience interesting, intriguing, as well as knowledgeable.
Personally, my attachment to this book was more than just a fascinating story, as my own grandmother worked her entire life in the Garment Industry in Upstate New York for a Pocketbook Factory with conditions not far from the descriptions in this book. Though some stories were shared by her, others were not, and I truly believe that in reading this novel it has brought me to a better understanding of what truly happened in those earlier days before Franklin D. Roosevelt enacted Federal Reform to ensure worker's safety and treatment.
I thank Sharon Gloger Friedman for this incredible story, one in which I highly recommend.”
Wild Sage Book Blog (FB)
Novels & Latte Book Club (FB)
"What a touching and insightful book. Great characters. For me a very personal book as my grandparents came over from Russia this same year and my grandfather was a member of the ILGWU."
- Marjorie Horne
"This book was a non-stop read for me. I became engaged with the characters and could not put the book down until I knew the outcome for this family I got to know. A very thoughtful and detailed look into the lives of immigrants and their struggles as they acclimated to the way of life in America.
This was a gripping look at an historical incident and I recommend reading this book."
- Rochelle Cohen
“This book was perfect. Ms. Gloger-Friedman not only did her research, she created characters that made you care. It was clear that she chose her words carefully, no wasted scenes. To all voracious readers: give yourself a treat, read Ashes.”
“Excellent rendering of what life must have been like for Jewish immigrants in the early 20th century. Friedman's descriptions of the pogroms that drove them to New York from Eastern Europe are vivid, as are her insights into the difficulties they faced trying to survive in the US...especially working in the sweatshops. (My grandparents had a pushcart back then, too.) The last chapters, about the horrific fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory are especially graphic and powerful.”
"Many people have a story of ancestors like this one - brought them to life and made them more real than just names on an ancestry chart. I highly recommend this book. Thanks Sharon for your hard work!"
- Amazon Customer
"Ashes grabs the reader at the beginning and holds on until the end. The characters are well drawn and the scenes are vivid. Building the story around these elements, the reader learns about history that is not well known. This is a great story from a first-time author; I look forward to Ms. Gloger Friedman's next book."
- Amazon Customer
“Spanning countries and, cultures, a tight knit loving family forge ahead in the face of brutal and difficult times. Set at the turn of the century, the family flees Russia's anti-Semitic raids and slaughter to face the hardships and struggles of surviving in a new land- New York's lower east side. We follow a young girl, uprooted from terror to a new world where she faces abhorrent working conditions. Here she finds her strength, voice, direction and love. This is a beautifully written page turner with well-developed characters who stay with you well after you have read the last page.”
- Reader, Google.com
"This beautifully written book brings to life the trials and triumphs of a generation of immigrants who brought needed changes to the industrialized America. The characters are believable and their stories compelling. With flowing prose and vivid description, Ms. Friedman has gifted the reader with a masterpiece of historical fiction. Enjoy this read!"
- Virgil S. Adkins III
"Ashes is a historical fiction piece that follows a Jewish family’s struggles through their experiences with racism and poverty. I stepped out of my typical fantasy genre to read this book, not knowing what to expect. The story was entertaining right away and I was emotionally invested in the characters before part one of the book even ended. This is the first book in a long time that made me so angry and even brought tears to my eyes at certain points in the story. The author evokes emotions from the reader brilliantly and it was one of the main reasons I absolutely loved this book. The second brilliant aspect about this book was the continuous action that seemed to never stop. It was extremely fun to read; I had a hard time putting this book down! Lastly, this book taught me things I had not known before. Words I did not recognize surrounding the Jewish culture were used, so I looked them up and learned more about the culture. I loved how the book was based on true historical events without being bland. The story intertwined perfectly with the events in a way that made it so much fun to read and learn about. I will most definitely be looking out for more releases from Sharon in the future!"
-Taylor Ott, Taylor's KnockOut Book Reviews