Do the Right Thing meets The Bonfire of the Vanities, in this “thrilling debut novel about marriage, gentrification, parenthood, race, and the dangerous bargains we make with ourselves” (Ann Packer, New York Times bestselling author) set over the course of one cataclysmic day when riots erupt in a rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood.
Aaron, a disgraced rabbi turned Wall Street banker, and Amelia, his journalist girlfriend, live with their newborn in Bedford-Stuyvesant, one of the most dynamic, historical, and volatile neighborhoods in New York City. The infusion of upwardly mobile professionals into Bed-Stuy’s historic brownstones belies the tension simmering on the streets below. But after a cop shoots a boy in a nearby park, conflict escalates to rioting—with Aaron and his family at its center.
Pulled into the riot’s vortex are Antoinette, devout nanny to Aaron and Amelia’s son; Jupiter, the single father who lives on their block with his son, Derek; Daniel, Aaron’s unhinged tenant in their basement unit; and Sara, a smart high school dropout broiling with confusion and rage. As the day unfolds, these diverse characters are forced to reckon with who they are and what truly matters to them.
Through the lens of one catastrophic day emerges a nuanced portrait of a changing neighborhood and its residents as they struggle to raise children, establish careers, and find love, fulfillment, and meaning in their lives. Sharp-eyed, fast-paced, and “sure to get people talking” (Vanity Fair), Bed-Stuy Is Burning offers a window into an array of complex lives and deftly wrestles with the most pressing issues of our time.
Platzer's earnest and well-meaning, if superficial, debut novel centers on a single day of unrest in Brooklyn's rapidly gentrifying Bedford-Stuyvestant neighborhood. Aaron, a former rabbi forced to abandon his synagogue in the wake of a loss of faith and (more critically) an ethical misstep, his girlfriend Amelia, and their infant son are among the vanguard of wealthy young white families moving into this historically black, architecturally rich neighborhood. Days after a police shooting of a preteen boy, racial tensions come to a head, and Aaron and Amelia find themselves and their historic brownstone in the crosshairs of their neighbors' previously restrained resentments. The perspectives of secondary characters including Aaron's antisocial white tenant, their black nanny, the N.Y.C. police commissioner, and others are ostensibly included to provide a diversity of voices. In reality, however, these multiple perspectives primarily serve to showcase the narrative's lack of depth and failure to engage with social issues and urban complexity on anything more than a surface level. Perhaps readers largely unaware of discriminatory policing, economic injustice, or economic displacement will find the narrative enlightening, but those hoping for the novel to really grapple with these issues will be largely disappointed, as it descends into melodrama instead.