Thursday, December 8, 2011
Book Review of Jews Without Money by Michael Gold
Author: Michael Gold
Publisher: Carrol and Graf Fiction
Type of book: Jews, New York, 1890s?-1900s?, poverty, tenement, adult, prostitutes, 1920s?
Year it was published: 1930
As a writer and political activist in the early 20th century, Michael Gold was an important presence on the American cultural scene fro more than three decades. Beginning in the 1920s his was a powerful journalistic voice for social change and human rights, and Jews Without Money-the author's only novel-is a passionate record of the times.
First published in 1930, this fictionalized autobiography offered an unusually candid look at the thieves, gangsters, and ordinary citizens who struggled against brutal odds on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Like Henry Roth's Call It Sleep and Abraham Cahan's The Rise and Fall of David Levinsky, Jews Without Money is a literary landmark of the Jewish experience.
The characters struck me as types of archetypes found in unexpected places; poor girls working as prostitutes, the tough guy, hardened mothers, etc. The only character that did have character dimension is Herman Gold, the protagonist's father, and the mother. Other characters were flat and didn't have a lot of dimension to them.
It actually paints a vivid picture of poverty and what the protagonist endured while growing up in East Side; the separation of races and people to different streets, the prejudices, the hatred, violence, prostituion, etc. It's not a clean novel.
This is from first person narrative and from a child's point of view rather than adult's. I think the novel is rather harsh and doesn't really offer an escape from poverty; once you are born to it, you're stuck in it.
Michael "Mike" Gold (April 12, 1894 – May 14, 1967) is the pen-name of Jewish American writer Itzok Isaac Granich. A lifelong communist, Gold was a novelist and literary critic, his semi-autobiographical novel Jews Without Money from 1930 was a bestseller.
Few years back, I remember that my sister was forced to read an interesting autobiography, I forgot what it was called unfortunately, but it also was written of an Irish family's lives in city houses in poverty and whatnot and how the characters tended not to see they lived in poverty. Reading Jews Without Money was very similar to reading that book. I also had to read Jews Without Money for a class and enjoyed it a lot. I liked the details included in there, for someone who may want to write historical fiction taking place on there, it will be a good source to turn to.
4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)