The only stolen object of Grandpa’s that I possess is a dictionary, a Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate edition, which he inscribed to my sister the year I was born: “From Grandpa. Hi Ya Paula. Year — 1965.” The call numbers on the spine and the blue stamp on a back page, which reads FREE PUBLIC LIBRARY JERSEY CITY, N.J., have been crossed out in blue indelible marker, his attempt to legitimize the gift. Grandpa obviously had his own interpretation of the phrase free public library.Part memoir, part ancestral scrapbook, part cultural history, Five-Finger Discount assembles stories of theft — petty and grand — and violence over several generations of family life and political life in Jersey City, New Jersey.
In Jersey City, people were actively illiterate and proudly went around saying things like “I never read a book in my life.” They boasted that they had managed to get so far without reading a single page. I wanted to say, Well, good for you, you idiot. Look where you are. You’re still in Jersey City.
Helene Stapinski, Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History (New York: Random House, 2002), 4, 107–108.
Jersey City : Helene Stapinski :: Dublin : James Joyce — a city to escape and hate and love.