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West Village Originals

Adult; Memoir; (Market)

New York City’s West Village has long been a haven for intellectuals, writers, artists, and activists. Jazz clubs, piano bars, coffee shops, and bookstores hummed with freedom from a more rigid society outside its borders. However, the area began to change, as curiosity shops gave way to top fashion designers’ stores. Michael D. Minichiello captures this shift through ninety interviews that paint an enlivening portrait of this Oz-like neighborhood.
Minichiello compiles a celebratory collection of ninety short interviews, originally published in the neighborhood paper WestView News between 2008 and 2020, conducted with the storied, lively personalities of New York City’s bohemian West Village, which has “nurtured generations of artists and activists who found refuge here from the greater metropolis of Manhattan.” People featured, many of whom have been part of the community for decades, range from internationally known figures like Calvin Trillin and Mimi Sheraton to more local influencers like Ralph Lee, founder of the storied Village Halloween Parade. Arranged by creative realms, such as “Community Activism,” “Music,” and “Theatre,” these profiles evoke deep feeling—including nostalgia—for a connected and vibrant community equal parts cozy and wild.

Though the flow of Minichiello’s interviews is somewhat formulaic—a bit about the interviewee’s childhood, their arrival to the West Village, and their professional and personal experiences in the neighborhood then and now—he lets each subject’s spirit shine through in their own words. Crucial themes tie together multiple places, such as frustration with the gentrification that has made the area unaffordable for younger creatives and led to some interviewees losing their homes, but even then Minichiello captures a range of individual responses to these changes, and the overall mood of the interviews stays upbeat. Including activists and business owners illuminates the heart of the community, as organizations and physical shops hold the soul and history of a neighborhood as much as people do.

Each piece packs a strong punch in about 800 words, and Minichiello’s consistent style facilitates a clean, compact layout, enhanced by vivacious photo portraits of each subject. This volume makes an attractive coffee table read, ready to be browsed or searched for a favorite’s story. The choice not to re-edit the interviews lets the older ones serve delightful double nostalgic duty: once for the West Village of an earlier generation, and another for that of a decade ago

Takeaway: Lovers of New York history will find inspiration and insight in these profiles of West Village residents.

Great for fans of: John Strausbaugh’s The Village: 400 Years of Beats and Bohemians, Radicals and Rogues, Jeff Kisseloff’s, You Must Remember This: An Oral History of Manhattan from the 1890s to World War II..

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A