, Kevin Baker's follow-up to Dreamland, makes full use of his skills as a top historical researcher. Paradise Alley
concerns a tumultuous moment in the record of the Civil War: the 1863 New York riots
that followed President Lincoln's decision to create a draft
. Baker refers to the street violence as one of the worst instances of civic unrest in American history. Yet one can't tell a compelling story with simple pronouncements. Baker gives us a handful of characters--fictional, yet emblematic--who lead readers through the dense weave of class, race, ambition, gender politics, and violence in mid-19th-century America. More importantly, Baker has that rare gift of establishing crucial links between the past and the present, of helping a reader understand that we live with the consequences of history. A hugely ambitious project, Baker wrestles with his responsibility to the overall vision as well as to many, many outstanding moments, and for the most part he gets the balance right. --Tom Keogh
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The draft riots in New York City in 1863 lasted a week and were a violent representation of popular opposition to Civil War conscription. The Draft in the Civil War enabled men of means to buy their way out of military service, and was viewed as unfair by the lower classes.