Eleven Stories High

Growing Up in Stuyvesant Town, 1948-1968

By Corinne Demas

Subjects: Autobiography, Biography And Memoir
Paperback : 9780791446300, 206 pages, July 2002
Hardcover : 9780791446294, 206 pages, July 2000

Table of contents

List of Illustrations

1. Stuyvesant Town

2. Elevators

3. Stores

4. Creatures

5. Games

6. Night

7. Dentistry

8. Music

9. School

10. Phones

11. Shopping

12. Girls

13. Biology

14. Woman's Work

15. Television

16. Greeks

17. Holidays

18. China

19. Subways

20. Cars

21. Kisco

22. Bricks


This memoir evokes a girl’s coming of age in a postwar New York City planned, “utopian” community.


Eleven Stories High is a memoir of a middle-class New York childhood, the perceptions of a girl growing up in a housing project that she deemed a "utopia of the fifties. " The story follows the process of memory, rather than the conventions of chronology, and explores the concept of "home," how a place like Stuyvesant Town—impersonal, symmetrical, utilitarian—shapes a childhood.

Corinne Demas is Professor of English at Mt. Holyoke College. She is the author of a novel, two short story collections, and many children's books, most recently If Ever I Return Again.


"I loved every word … Stuyvesant Town, with its unexpected charm, is as strong a character as any I've encountered in personal narrative. Demas's portrait of her mother is exquisite. " — Anita Shreve, author of The Pilot's Wife

"Corinne Demas's evocation of the specifics of childhood games, of family rituals, of the new TV culture, of the significance of the automobile, of the way we worked and played and learned, and of the ways in which the urban culture yearned to become a suburban culture, is, quite simply, superb. It is a most tenderly wrought book, full of affection for its world—whether it tells of shopping rituals or dating rituals, dentistry or an all-girls school of the fifties. " — Jay Neugeboren, author of Imagining Robert: My Brother, Madness, and Survival: A Memoir

"Eleven Stories High is a marvelously sensible, observant, honest, and often amusing portrait of a very particular place that manages at the same time to conjure the experiences of many contented children growing up in many kinds of places. " — Rosellen Brown, author of Before and After

"A very meticulous writer, steady and believable. Her powers of recall are extraordinary. I regard this as an important record of contemporary life, as well as a most interesting coming-of-age memoir. " — Shirley Abbott, author of Womenfolks: Growing Up Down South

"…evokes a girl's coming of age in New York City's planned 'utopian' community. " — Publishers Weekly

"…the peaceful urban idyll of Corinne Demas…" — The New York Observer

"She writes with affection and humor about her years at 524 East 20th Street and her family, friends and neighbors. " — Peter Cooper Village/ Stuyvesant Town News

"This is an irresistible memoir. The book swarms with the sort of everyday detail that not only makes a life memorable but that asks the reader to savor rather than reject it. I smiled on every page. " — Anne Bernays, author of Professor Romeo

"Combines a startling immediacy of presentation with the inevitable distancing of retrospection … Eleven Stories High is richly layered, fondly written, and true in the necessary way of art. " — Sven Birkerts, author of Readings

"Corinne Demas's Eleven Stories High is a remarkable portrait of a vanished world but not a vanished place. The social history it captures is important, presenting the story of a transitional generation of women, suspended between the quietism of the American Dream of the post-war era of the 1950s and the tumultuous upheavals to come at the end of the sixties. A vivid and paradoxical picture of both the urban American and domestic life once lived, captured by a writer of lyric strengths and fastidious intellect. " — William O'Rourke, author of Signs of the Literary Times: Essays, Reviews, Profiles 1970–1992