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Gods of Gotham

Gods of Gotham: Race Crimes, the Sacred Hatred
By Neely Kennedy

In the April’s Ladies' Home Journal Book Club selection and 2013 Edgar Allen Poe award nominee for best novel, The Gods of Gotham, author Lyndsay Faye pays homage to her passion for murder and mayhem whodunits.  Her historical fiction mystery is set in 1843 New York City at the time of the Irish Potato Famine that motivated one hundred and twenty five thousand, largely Irish Catholics, to immigrate to the U.S.  Most destitute with scant jobs to be had and little skill, they succumb to lives of crime and poverty.

As NYC swirls in a state of  lawless inertia, gangs, mob riots, and general chaos, a bartender, Timothy Wilde, is appointed to join his brother Valentine, a fireman and Democratic Party leader, as the first “copper stars” of the  newly formed NY Police Department.  After a chance run-in with a child soaked in blood, Timothy begins a feverish investigation into a ghastly child prostitute serial murder.

Below are examples from the book that illustrate the Protestant perspective against Irish Catholics as a scapegoat for all social skills; deserving of their destitution and sickness because of their errant believe in Catholicism, and therefore, their inherent lack of morality . The chronic repetition of hate messages forms a cultural psychology that the Irish are subhuman, facilitating the necessary detachment from compassion, and allowing for the awful atrocities of hate crimes against them.

“Disease, the clergy and the scientists agree, is caused by weak living. Rich foods, bad air, rotten earth, lazy hygiene, liquor, drugs, vice, and sex. The sick, therefore, are generally supposed something lower than angelic and thus not to be directly associated with by virtuous charitable workers.”

“But I warn you: there’s men as would have only one God in this city, and Him a Protestant. You’ll learn it soon enough.”

“What private atrocities cower behind closed doors when an organization is beholden to a man and not to God. You’ve seen the Irish here, Mr. Wilde, their wills utterly depleted by the belief they must go through a mortal man to reach their salvation. They are drunk, they are diseased, they are loose, and why? Only because their very religion has robbed them of God. I no longer tend to those who will not renounce the Church of Rome, fearing for my own soul in fostering blasphemy.”

“I’d sooner she minister in an actual slave pit of South Carolina than such slave pits of the human mind as she will insist on going to.”

“We ought to round of these papists somehow, send them back where they belong. If God wishes them to starve there, then who are we to stand in the way of divine justice? Granted, it may require twice the effort on a white man’s part to get an honest day’s work out of a Negro, but at least they fear the devil—there is nothing these Irish won’t sink to, as the letter proves. It shocks me, sir. The cruelty in what passes for fellow humans.”

“They help the sufferers. They die alongside them, these rats that look like humans.”

Book Club Bonus: Compare the hate crimes in the story to that committed in our modern day. How are we challenged to abide the “Golden Rule” of treating others the way we would like to be treated from political views, races, religions, or sexual orientations different from our own?  How do we cultivate temperance and tolerance, or break-through common stereotypes?

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