Barren Island Summary
Carol Zoref

Everything you need to understand or teach Barren Island by Carol Zoref.

  • Barren Island Summary & Study Guide

Barren Island Overview

Barren Island, a historical coming-of-age novel by Carol Zoref, captures the life of Marta Eisenstein, as she retells her own personal history on the occasion of her eightieth birthday. Marta describes growing up on Barren Shoal, a small, impoverished island in New York's Jamaica Bay, known for its distinctly repugnant stench produced by the local animal carcass rendering factory. Marta's life is plagued by the the trials and tribulations of growing up in an ethnic immigrant community with few resources or comforts during the Great Depression, as well as the tensions caused by labor strife, the rise of antisemitism and Nazism, and a government attempting to redistribute wealth and services under the New Deal. Barren Island is chiefly concerned with the preservation and recognition of history, as Marta fears that if she does not continue to tell her story, then her life will be forgotten, erased, and lived in vain.

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