A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith, was first published in 1943. This heartbreaking and beautiful novel is set in the Williamsburg slums, starting in 1912.
Excerpt from Chapter 3
"My father was like me - never held the one job long." He smoked in silence for a while.
Francie ironed quietly. She knew that he was just thinking out loud. He did not expect her to understand. He just wanted someone to listen to him. He said practically the same things every Saturday. The rest of the week when he was drinking, he would come and go and say little. But today was Saturday. It was his day to talk.
"My folks never knew how to read or write. I only got to the sixth grade myself - had to leave school when the old man died. You kids are lucky. I'm going to see to it that you get through school."