From Publishers Weekly
"I experienced my first wet dream on a Sunday night after reading a Dick Tracy comic strip on the front page of the Sunday edition of the New York Daily News," writes poet Kaufman (Who Are We?)in this visceral memoir of how his Jewish identity has influenced his sexuality, writing and imagination. Indeed, for much of his journey to adulthood, self-acceptance and becoming an artist, the concepts of sex, writing and the imagination have been inseparable for Kaufman. Growing up in the Bronx with a deeply depressed mother who was a Holocaust survivor, Kaufman came to grips with his Jewish heritage in disquieting ways: he found himself sexually turned on by photos of German death camps, formed a clique in high school that jokingly called for "death to the Jews" and created "The Purple Jew," a comic book that featured a Jewish superhero even as Kaufman understood that "more than anything in the world, I wanted not to be Jewish." He is able to combine humor and pathos with a cold-blooded sense of irony in his chilling descriptions of uncovering his identityAwhether it is through going to a brothel to have sex for the first time ("I still felt like a virgin, only contaminated by paid-for sex") or remembering, as he terrorizes Palestinian children during a stint in the Israeli army, how his mother was captured by German soldiers ("I know it's not the same"). Frightening and deeply moving, Kaufman's memoir is a remarkable document. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Some critics have dubbed the new memoirs of traumas and tragedies being churned out by publishers "pathographies" --packaged tales of woe that inexplicably linger on best-seller lists and naturally inspire successors. Kaufman's own story of a Bronx childhood dominated by his mother, a traumatized Holocaust survivor, departs from this genre in important aspects. He's not recounting misery for misery's sake but leading the reader down the long, winding path he walked before discovering his identity as a Jew and a writer. Jew Boy
runs long at more than 400 pages, and details of the author's life as a soldier in Israel, a recently sober poet beginning a career in San Francisco, and later undertaking a literary tour of Germany in the midst of neo-Nazi riots are woefully short compared to lengthy descriptions of childhood and adolescent antics and traumas. Still, this vivid portrayal of how the psychological scars of the Holocaust are passed from one generation to another is also an inspiring portrait of a young man's literary awakening. Ted LeventhalCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved