Banished Children of Eve

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Quinn, Peter. Banished Children of Eve. New York: Viking, 1994.

In this Doctorow-like novel, historical figures like composer Stephen C. Foster, general John Ellis Wool, and retailer A.T. Stewart rub elbows with invented characters like master burglar James Dunne ("the Bowery Sphinx"), defalcating investor Charles Bedford, and a black actress known as "Eliza" after her role in Uncle Tom's Cabin. As the year 1863 rushes toward the fatal draft riots of July in New York City, the characters are drawn together in a net of intrigue and violence.

Much of Quinn's first novel is backstory, as we learn about the different paths these characters have taken to mid-19th-century New York. The focus is on the city's Irish community (the "banished children" of the title, taken from an emigrant prayer), though we also meet "True Americans" and African-Americans, and witness the tremendous ethnic and racial enmities of the city.

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