Tenements, Towers & Trash: An Unconventional Illustrated History of New York City

Cartoonist Julia Wertz (Drinking at the Movies) fell in love with New York City after growing up in Northern California. She spent a decade there, contributing illustrations to the New Yorker and Harper's, before being illegally evicted from her Brooklyn apartment in 2016, a disruption that sent her back west to regroup. Nevertheless, her heart fixated on New York. Showcasing her extraordinary artistic talent, Wertz digs into an eclectic survey of the city's past, and the remaining architectural relics, through her large-format illustrated history, Tenements, Towers & Trash.

Wertz occasionally nods to her personal experiences, with short comic strips about riding the subway and finding an apartment. But she largely keeps to the margins as she guides readers through New York's nuttier anecdotes, like the Great Pinball Prohibition of the 1930s, the infectious 1960s career of Typhoid Mary and the preponderance of Ray's Pizza shops--a complicated multiplicity with early ties to Mafia drug trafficking. Wertz covers the progression of public transportation and includes an incomplete list of her favorite independent bookstores. What stands out most, though, are her elegant architectural sketches. Several gorgeous pages at a time feature detailed line drawings of what a given building or block looks like: open the book and you might see Smith St. and Douglass St. as it looked in 1928 compared to 2013, or 1507 40th St., Brooklyn in 1933 and 2016.

The final chapter takes readers on one of Wertz's favorite long walks through Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. She depicts the city through her own eyes, concluding with a beautiful, moving love letter to the place her heart belongs. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

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