July is National Ice Cream Month, and my vote for this year's spokesperson is Lillian Dunkle from Susan Jane Gilman's novel, The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street. Lillian begins her story as Malka Treynovsky, a young Russian child who immigrates in 1913 to New York City, where she finds herself suddenly crippled by a horse and abandoned by her family. Through this tragedy, Gilman creates the great American tale of survival, tenacity and drive as Malka reinvents herself as the feisty Lillian Dunkle, queen of the Dunkle ice cream franchise. Her rise to the top isn't glamorous as she battles being a woman entrepreneur in the 1930s and '40s and eventually a celebrated television personality who falls from grace. Sprinkled throughout Gilman's book are original ice cream concoctions and the history of the ice cream industry, which makes this particular novel a delight to read during the summer.
Looking for other stories of immigrants and reinvention? Try reading Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.
Does this conversation about ice cream spark your interest? Check out Scoop Adventures by Lindsay Clendaniel.