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A Tale of Hustling Hard and Breaking Even



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About The Book

A poignant memoir of growing up inside Boston’s criminal underworld—and breaking free.

Nicole Treska was born to a family of gangsters. In the 1970s, during Boston’s mob wars, her grandfather’s diner was an unofficial headquarters for Whitey Bulger and other members of the Winter Hill Gang. Nicole’s father was also an associate of the gang: there was talk that, before Nicole could walk, her stroller was used as a decoy to sell drugs. In 1985, her father too was arrested and tried—sentenced to two years in prison for federal drug trafficking.

Wanting to offer a better life to her children, Nicole’s mother moved her and her sister out of Boston. As an adult, Nicole strove to separate herself from her past, establishing a career as a writer and professor in New York City. But when she learns her father’s sister has passed away, she returns to her hometown and reunites with her dad—now stooped and struggling to walk on a bad knee. As she gets reacquainted with him and the old neighborhood, Nicole is forced to reconcile with her harrowing childhood and its lingering impact.

With gritty and gripping prose, Wonderland masterfully explores and elucidates the line between helping family and hurting ourselves.

About The Author

Photograph © Sasha Rudensky

Nicole Treska is the author of the debut memoir Wonderland. Her short fiction has appeared in New York Tyrant magazine, Epiphany literary journal, and Egress: New Openings in Literary Art. Her interviews and reviews are up at Electric Literature, Guernica, The Millions, BOMB, The Rumpus, and then some. She lives in Harlem with her husband, James, and their three-legged dog, Nadine. 

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (July 9, 2024)
  • Length: 224 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781668005040

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Raves and Reviews

“Treska ponders the lifelong imprints of class and community in this touching memoir.” –The New York Times Book Review

“Straight talk!” Gordon Lish

“This winning debut memoir… amounts to an arresting and compassionate self-portrait.” Publisher's Weekly

“A poignantly affecting memoir about surviving and thriving.” Kirkus Reviews

“A powerful, poetic memoir that brilliantly blends a history of Boston and its surrounding areas with the history of a fascinating—and at times functional—family. A swaggering storyteller of the highest degree, Nicole Treska will have your heart breaking on one page, and your eyes filling with tears of laughter on the next. Filled with hardscrabble characters and hard-earned lessons, here is a magnificent tale that is as New England as it gets.” —Isaac Fitzgerald, New York Times bestselling author of Dirtbag, Massachusetts

“A compelling portrait of the Treska family and its fascinating mythology. Hard-scrabble and beautiful, this is a poignant exploration of a working-class community, and the remnants of home as a vessel for memory. Through the complex rivers of love and history and family, Nicole Treska serves as a skillful guide of how to treasure a difficult past we might not always understand. Lyrical, keen, and full of tenderness, I’ll never look at Boston or its people the same way again.” —Safiya Sinclair, National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author of How to Say Babylon

“This memoir questions how far one can run away from the circumstances they’re raised in, and more importantly, how far they want to. Through zeroing on in on the lives, traditions, and struggles of people born and bred into limited options and resentment, Treska invites readers into her rendering of a stark, compelling reality, not hidden, but largely ignored by mainstream cultural conversation. This memoir is not to be ignored. Written with urgency, vulnerability, and compassion, Wonderland is under-the-skin unforgettable.” —Ashley C. Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Somebody’s Daughter

Wonderland spoke to me like I was in the room while Nicole told the story. Her natural wit drives you through the scenic route of a life that many Americans attempt to bury with shame and guilt. Writing about the people you love, honestly while honoring their humanity and dignity, is a gift….Nicole Treska has it. Wonderland is a story that we can all relate to when we catch ourselves just being people. She’s got bars!” —Aida Rodriguez, author of Legitimate Kid

Wonderland pays tribute to those who just can’t knock it off, to the infuriating romance of making a life on the wrong side of the Charles.”—Tracy O'Neil, National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Recipient, Author of The Hopeful, Quotients, and forthcoming Woman of Interest

“Far as I can tell, Nicole Treska is a singular voice: one full of heart, humor, and wisdom, one charting a world I knew little to nothing about. I read Wonderland and have come away astonished by the singing truth of her lines, by how much command she has over craft, by how deep she makes me feel about her experience, though never with sentimentality. The way she sees the world and writes it is all her own—and what's better than that?”—Mitchell Jackson, Pulitzer Prize Winner, Whiting Award Winner, Author of The Residue Years and Survival Math

“Teeming with affecting prose, dark humor, and endless style, Wonderland is a hopeful, empathetic memoir about an unforgettable American family. Nicole Treska is a formidable debut writer with a beautiful heart and a tremendous ear for language.”—Kimberly King Parsons, National Book Award-Nominated Author of Black Light and We Were the Universe

“Wonderland is a wild memoir about all the unlikely, questionable ways in which we are capable of love. “Big hearts do dumb things,” Nicole says when trying to console her father for falling for a romantic scam online. Well, this book is full of huge hearts who do huge, dumb things and we can’t help but loving them a whole lot more each time around. “I was a steampipe building with nowhere to blow, she says of herself in the beginning of her story.” We are very lucky the steampipe has blown up.” –CHIARA BARZINI, author of Things That Happened Before the Earthquake and Sister Stop Breathing

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