My Seneca Village

Marilyn Nelson

Quiet for more than 135 years, the voices of Seneca Village are rising again. Angela Riddles ponders being free-but-not-free. The orphaned Donnelly brothers get gold fever. A conjurer sees past his era and into ours.

Drawing upon history and her exquisite imagination, Newbery Honor medalist, two-time Coretta Scott King Honor medalist, and National Book Award nomineee Marilyn Nelson recreates the long lost community of Seneca Village. A multi-racial, multi-ethnic neighborhood in the center of Manhattan, it thrived in the middle years of the 19th century. Families prayed in its churches, children learned in its school, babies were born, and loved ones were laid to rest. Then work crews arrived to build Central Park, and Seneca Village disappeared.

Illustrated in the poet’s own words — with brief prose descriptions of what she sees inside her poems — this collection takes readers back in time and deep into the mind’s eye of one of America’s most gifted writers. Included as well is a foreword that outlines the history of Seneca Village and a guide to the variety of poetic forms she employs throughout this exceptional book.


  • Ages: 12 up
  • Grades: 6-12
  • Pages: 96
  • Hardcover: $21.95
  • Softcover: $11.95
  • E-book: $9.95

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Recent Reviews

7This beautifully crafted and powerful collection of poems deals with a brief period (1825-57) in New York City's storied past. ...In the spirit of Edgar Lee Master's Spoon River Anthology, this work touches on historical truths (footnoted throughout) but introduces a fleeting time and place through the everyday hopes and dreams of its residents....This rich and diverse (a variety of poetic forms, including ones invented for certain speakers, are featured) piece of American literature belongs in every collection.

—School Library Journal, starred review

7Nelson’s natural and musical poetic lines (mostly in iambic pentameter) suggest reading aloud yet are accessible on the page and lend themselves to multiple reading experiences: as history; as story; as poetry, to be read sequentially or browsed and revisited. ...[O]ne of Nelson’s finest works.

—The Horn Book, starred review

7Artfully crafted, an engrossing and important collection of memories and moments from a pivotal time in American history.

—Kirkus Reviews, STARRED

7[T]he proud multi-ethnic nineteenth-century society of Seneca Village is resuscitated through a divine medium: renowned American poet Nelson....An American saga so well suited to Nelson’s poetic touch is a gift meant to be gently unwrapped to be read with an intellectually curious spirit ready for an awakening.

— Booklist, STARRED review

Honors for My Seneca Village

  • An ALA Notable Children's Book
  • CCBC Choices 2016
  • A 2016 School Library Journal Battle of the Kids' Books Contender
  • Horn Book Fanfare: Best Books of 2015
  • SLJ's Best Books 2015: Nonfiction
  • Kirkus Best Teen Books of 2015
  • Best Social Studies Books 2015, International Literacy Association