I have been very sick for a week, and no end in sight. So today, while trying to force myself to stay in bed, I finally read the New York Times’ profile of Dasani, a homeless girl living in a shelter in Brooklyn. Once I started, I had to read the entire gripping, heart-wrenching account.
“[Dasani] belongs to a vast and invisible tribe of more than 22,000 homeless children in New York, the highest number since the Great Depression, in the most unequal metropolis in America.”
It made me think of another person I know who grew up in New York in poverty: my grandmother.
My Armenian grandmother was born in Istanbul when it was still known as Constantinople. She arrived in New York at eight years old (although officially only five years old, for a lower fare in steerage), a refugee from Turkey who had escaped the Armenian Genocide. Her mother couldn’t support her, so she sent my grandmother to live in an orphanage for several years, until her mother married again and could afford to bring her home. My grandmother grew up in the city through the Great Depression. She was able to attend a public arts high school, which led to her first job copying French perfume bottles for a department store. She gave all the money she earned to her mother.
In the course of her life in the U.S., she skyrocketed out of poverty into prosperity, a world away from where she started. She had a house in California with her own studio. Her husband owned his own business and passed it onto their sons. She died, essentially of old age, at ninety-seven and a half.