A clever and complex woman builds an ice cream empire after immigrating from Russia in this stunning novel of power, Prohibition, and performance set against the backdrop of early 20th-century America.

In 1913, little Malka Treynovsky flees Russia with her family. Bedazzled by tales of gold and movie stardom, she tricks them into buying tickets for America. Yet no sooner do they land on the squalid Lower East Side of Manhattan, than Malka is crippled and abandoned in the street.

Taken in by a tough-loving Italian ices peddler, she manages to survive through cunning and inventiveness. As she learns the secrets of his trade, she begins to shape her own destiny. She falls in love with a gorgeous, illiterate radical named Albert, and they set off across America in an ice cream truck. Slowly, she transforms herself into Lillian Dunkle, “The Ice Cream Queen” — doyenne of an empire of ice cream franchises and a celebrated television personality.

Lillian’s rise to fame and fortune spans seventy years and is inextricably linked to the course of American history itself, from Prohibition to the disco days of Studio 54. Yet Lillian Dunkle is nothing like the whimsical motherly persona she crafts for herself in the media. Conniving, profane, and irreverent, she is a supremely complex woman who prefers a good stiff drink to an ice cream cone. And when her past begins to catch up with her, everything she has spent her life building is at stake.

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"This shrewd and lively novel tells us about those chasms between public success and private truths that make up so much of American life. The energetic narrator, the ice cream queen, is a confidence-woman, and her darkly comic story about life in the big city and in the media spotlight will give readers chills."—Charles Baxter, author of The Soul Thief

"Riveting... part coming-of-age story, part travel journal, part political thriller, and completely unputdownable."—Elaina Richardson, O Magazine
"[A] standout travel memoir...Gilman's descriptions of their trials and tribulations crackle with wit."—Booklist

"What emerges from these exhaustively told tales is a genial comic presence, a good-time girl who doesn't always get it right, whether it's her relationship, her job, or her prose...This is Gilman at her best: stubborn, perversely honest, and, yes, hypocritical. And we're entirely on her side."—Claire Dederer, The Chicago Tribune
"[Gilman's] takes on sex and work, love and friendship, mind and body are refreshing, and her personality engaging.... This memoir offers the pleasure of spending time in the company of an observant and vivid writer."—People Magazine (four stars)
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