An eloquent tale of human aspirations and resilience…
Murder, betrayal, loneliness, and perversity propel Peres’s excellent historical biography, featuring his great grandfather, who emigrated from Germany in 1851 to America. With astonishingly real details, Peres creates a convincing picture of Jews as a minority community in Germany and their repression in German towns and cities where they stay partially stripped of their civil rights. The details of Harris’s sea voyage to America—everything from the dark, claustrophobic hold of the sailing ship to the arrival in America where crushed by hunger, poverty, the drudgery of manual labor, loneliness, and disillusionment, the passengers venture into the vast streets of lawless and sometimes horrid New York City to search for a better future— is constructed with amazing clarity. Peres’s story of the Jewish immigrant who emigrated from one of the German states in 1851 to New York City and eventually made a life for himself does ample justice to the man full of fierce longings and resolved to remake his life. It also reflects the enduring young man greatly tormented by suppression of Jews by German officials and unfairness of it all; the vulnerable passenger on the vast ship crushed by hunger, perils of sailing, and loneliness; the shrewd businessman who eventually made a life for himself in America; and, above all, the flawed, utterly humane man with ‘simultaneous’ families, one in Pittsburgh and another in New York. The women are sharply defined, particularly Rosetta, who despite her own clearly delineated identity and complex psychology is forced to live under the shadow of the men in her life (first her father, and later Harris). She longs to crave her own identity, but eventually succumbs to her husband’s betrayal. What makes the book such a rich experience is that it’s a combination of a biography of one man and his family, an absorbing psychological study, a history of the civil war and draft riots in New York City as seen from the eyes of a Jewish immigrant, and a vivid portrayal of anti-Semitism in Germany. Historically accurate and poignant, the book evokes a profound sense of time, place, and character. The stunning black and white pictures add to the intrigue. With its meticulously researched details and the bare knuckles history of America, this story of human dreams, aspirations, and resilience has universal appeal. Peres has delivered a moving account of a Jewish immigrant’s life.
Note: This title is free on Kindle Unlimited.
Escape from the Lower East Side
By Richard Peres
Pub date August 11, 2020
Price $12.99 (USD) Paperback, $7.55 Kindle edition