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19. 'A Tree Grows In Brooklyn' By Betty Smith
Born in the slums of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, into a poor family with a drunken patriarch, Francie Nolan wants for more. She's just a kid when the novel stars, but by the time you reach the last chapter, Francie is no longer a scrappy kid, but a beautiful young woman who made it out of the slums in a country where the phrase the "American dream," actually still meant something.