As I looked around from my cold spot on the step, I could see an old, brick house. This house was like none other on the block. With a large American flag hanging on the door, this house – a symbol of the American dream – stood taller than all the other houses. My attention then shifted to two great big evergreen trees on each facade, and the beautiful bed of flowers, of all shapes, sizes, and colors, wrapped tightly around the base of the house – the tracings of an American summer.
There was a light through the upstairs’ window of the house. I could see a mother sitting with her baby son. Although all I could hear were the many crickets singing softly in the night, I knew that the loving mother was telling a bedtime story to her sweet and sleepy child.
My America is a very beautiful place, not only because of the big cities, tall buildings, stone statues, and pretty flowers, but also because of the people who make America what it is today. Knowing within every blue, black, brown, green, and gray eye you see on the streets of America – and like me, every window you look through – there are stories, hopes and even dreams, this thought brings me the greatest pleasure, as it did Alfred Kazin. Kazin’s greatest pleasure came looking at the many historical landmarks that New York had to offer and thinking of the many people who struggled to make those astonishing contributions.
In “Summer: The Way to Highland Park” (1951), Kazin takes us into his childhood in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, describing his America with such tactile distinction that we too can “taste the damp sweetness of Italian cheese” and “see the clumps of red and brown meat dripping off [the] sausage rings” (Kazin 332). “You cannot grow up in that kind of environment, without absorbing and re-expressing a fantastically physical world,” states Kazin in an National Public Radio news recording. Walking in this world, Kazin focuses, with great detail on the physical characteristics and distinctions of America, such as the smells, feelings, and sights of Brownsville, as well as on the great contributors and contributions in American history.
Walking through the streets of New York deepened Kazin’s feelings for American literature, painting, and especially history. Kazin discovered in reading “the road map to a freer territory” (Smith). “ I read as if books would fill my every gap, legitimize my strange quest for the American past, remedy my every flaw, let me in at last into the great world that was anything just out of Brownsville” (Kazin 335). Exploring this new territory, much like the explorers in the past who would go west in search of gold, and open space, new territory and the “promised land,” Kazin was doing the same thing metaphorically. He wanted to leave his immigrant identity behind. He read to find the new territory where he could claim a new identity. Kazin was looking for this…