Your Turn: Francie Nolan : In Character From A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty SmithNominated by Susan Bell
NPR logo Your Turn: Francie Nolan

Your Turn: Francie Nolan

From A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Nominated by Susan Bell

It was my mother who introduced me to Francie Nolan, the main character of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. She read the book to me when I was 11, Francie's age at the start of the novel.

Though I lived in a small town in 1960s California, completely different than pre-World War I Williamsburg, I felt connected to Francie. She was a bookworm, visiting the library for entertainment, vowing to read every book in the collection — one of my childhood goals. Though our environments diverged dramatically from that point on, I shared many of the same feelings of disappointment and joy that Francie experienced.

The book's dramatic arc follows Francie as she grows up, and we are treated to the stories of characters that populate her life. My love for Francie is entwined with memories of my mother, and the enthusiasm with which she shared this book with me. But Francie's story, and what it teaches us about the love and support that reside in people who are flawed, is universal.