“Coming of Age in a Different Time,” by Brian Tokar
Loisaida [is] a compelling coming-of-age story that describes one young woman’s journey of self-discovery and political awakening. Purple-haired Catherine … escaped a liberal but far too safe enclave in Scarsdale to live with her lover in a Lower East Side squat and work on an anarchist newspaper, the well-intentioned but rhetorically excessive Avalanche. One of those [historic] community gardens—in this case established by Puerto Rican activists but recently more frequented by the anarchists and punk rockers—is slated for demolition under the pretext of building low income housing. The neighborhood becomes even more polarized, and Catherine begins to find her voice. . .
It’s a fascinating cast of characters that will immediately resonate with anyone who’s even casually familiar with the New York of decades past. There’s the former gang leader who’s become the neighborhood’s most effective and charismatic organizer—a character modeled after Chodorkoff’s close friend Chino Garcia—and another “reformed” gang leader who’s instead become a corrupt politician. There’s the ex-Yippie newspaper publisher with a pronounced authoritarian streak, the single mom seeking a better life for herself and her young son, and all manner of street poets, drug dealers, radical puppeteers, and other young idealists. But in Chodorkoff’s skillful words, filled with love and affection for these people and their neighborhood, they’re far from just archetypes; they become a fascinating slice of humanity struggling with life in changing times. We experience the joys, the sensations, the pleasures and the fears of a New York in the midst of upheaval and transition.