The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman middle school? Malka (later Lillian) narrates her story, vividly bringing to life the brutal conditions endured by immigrants in the early Twentieth Century, who arrive in America with nothing but their need to survive. The family, composed of Malka, her sisters and her parents, finds its way to the derelict tenements of the lower east side of Manhattan, where it is torn apart, first by her father’s defection and then by the illness and madness that extreme hardship breeds. Though misfortune and abandonment plague Malka’s life, her extraordinary cleverness saves her from every peril. She can construct an exculpating whopper in two seconds flat. One such lie changes her on the spot from a little Jewish girl to a little Catholic one. The story of Malka’s childhood was so compelling that I wasn’t sure what the rest of the book could be about. Turns out that “Lillian’s” adulthood is even more stupendous. She has some luck, but mostly, through her own ingenuity, she rebounds from setbacks and betrayals, often through appalling (though sometimes endearing) lapses in ethics. Her voice is filled with wonderful yiddishisms. She’s funny. The author’s in-depth understanding of the world of ice cream (yes, the book IS about ice cream) contributes to its engaging authenticity. I am very grateful to Liz Baer for telling me about this writer.