Parallel accounts of the “Bread and Roses” strike of 1912 in Lawrence, Massachusetts, are told alternatively by
Rosa Serutti and Jake Beale in Katherine Paterson’s latest novel BREAD AND ROSES, TOO. Jake is a young boy, a mill worker,
who participates in the strike and is subsequently living on the street forced to steal food and money to survive. Rosa is
a young girl. Her mother and sister are both mill workers who choose to strike even if it means present hardship because they
believe strongly in their cause. In fact, Rosa is the one whose sign “We Want Bread, And We Want Roses, Too” ultimately
becomes the slogan of the strike. Both narrators are torn in regards to the strike since its short-term effects are causing
more hardship, more uncertainty, and more hunger. The two narrators are brought together in the story when concerned parents
in the town send their children to various cities in the region who support the Union and its causes. Jake, an orphan, sneaks
aboard the train and convinces Rosa to let him be her “brother.” She takes pity on him, and the two join forces
for the duration of the strike.
Based on a historical event, BREAD AND ROSES, TOO, is an unforgettable novel recounting the injustice of the industrial revolution
regarding its workers—particularly its immigrant workers—and the need for the Union to support and provide for
its members assuring them of a better tomorrow. Set in the streets and tenements, it is a powerful portrait of poverty, hunger,
and the fight for survival. It shows the strength of a community in supporting one another despite limitations and differences.
It is a beautiful novel. While the strike itself plays an integral role in the story, it is in some ways a simple story of
a young boy’s struggle to find himself, to find a place to belong, to find a family. To find rest.