Jersey Author’s ‘Greetings from Asbury Park’ Centers on Shore-Town Struggles

Daniel H. Turtel’s debut novel, named after Bruce Springsteen’s debut album, echoes the tensions between Asbury Park's gentrification and poverty.

The cover of Daniel H. Turtel’s debut novel, "Greetings from Asbury Park."
Daniel H. Turtel’s debut novel, Greetings from Asbury Park, is out now.

Greetings from Asbury Park, Daniel H. Turtel’s debut novel (Blackstone Publishing) out now, is the story of three half-siblings whose struggles mirror those of the complicated town where they live. Their story echoes the way in which some wealthy white townships have constructed careful barriers to exclude longstanding Black communities, an arrangement that has periodically exploded in violence.

Turtel, who grew up in Ocean Township and now lives in New York City, says he chose to set his novel in Asbury Park because of the juxtaposition he’s seen there between gentrification—the clothing boutiques, cafés and gelaterias that have popped up—and the poverty that still exists there. 

“Less than 20 years ago, I remember riding my bike through the decrepit, abandoned Convention Hall and playing handball with my brother against the inside walls and watching bats fly around inside,” he says. “But somehow, the destitution always seemed contained. Revitalized by the influx of a thriving gay community in the 2000s, [it] is hardly recognizable…And yet, it’s still home to some of the worst public schools and poverty in the state and is constantly ranked as one of the state’s most dangerous cities. It’s a delicate balancing act that leads to real tension and explosive potential,” he says. 

Novelist Tom Perrotta, who is from Garwood, says Turtel earns the right to name his book after Bruce Springsteen’s classic album, writing that it “is a remarkable debut from a talented writer” and contains “enough Jersey Shore ambiance that you can almost smell the boardwalk.”

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