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As a writer and political activist in early-twentieth-century America, Michael Gold was an important presence on the American cultural scene for 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 193 As a writer and political activist in early-twentieth-century America, Michael Gold was an important presence on the American cultural scene for 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 in lower East Side 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. Michael Gold (1893–1967) was born in New York City, where later he wrote for radical journals and newspapers such as New Masses and The Liberator. Jews Without Money has been translated in more than fourteen countries, including Germany, where the novel was employed against Nazi propaganda.


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As a writer and political activist in early-twentieth-century America, Michael Gold was an important presence on the American cultural scene for 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 193 As a writer and political activist in early-twentieth-century America, Michael Gold was an important presence on the American cultural scene for 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 in lower East Side 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. Michael Gold (1893–1967) was born in New York City, where later he wrote for radical journals and newspapers such as New Masses and The Liberator. Jews Without Money has been translated in more than fourteen countries, including Germany, where the novel was employed against Nazi propaganda.

30 review for Jews Without Money

  1. 4 out of 5

    BlackOxford

    Routinely Miraculous Certainly not a great stylist but well worth reading to understand the grit of immigrant life. Life on Hester Street: Coming off the boat from Ellis Island in the Battery with a tag on your jacket. No friends. An incomprehensible language. Not a dime in your pocket. Prey to hucksters, con men and all manner of exploitation. And yet you survive. You create a life through sheer toil, luck, and acute attention to everything that happens around you. There is Yiddish theatre, Yidd Routinely Miraculous Certainly not a great stylist but well worth reading to understand the grit of immigrant life. Life on Hester Street: Coming off the boat from Ellis Island in the Battery with a tag on your jacket. No friends. An incomprehensible language. Not a dime in your pocket. Prey to hucksters, con men and all manner of exploitation. And yet you survive. You create a life through sheer toil, luck, and acute attention to everything that happens around you. There is Yiddish theatre, Yiddish newspapers, Yiddish-speaking unions, and if not a rabbi from your own shtetl, certainly there is one who knew him. Within a generation you have walked into a new house in Brooklyn or perhaps the remoteness of the Bronx. Meanwhile you suffer the usual heartaches, disappointments, and family tragedies. Nothing unusual in any of it really, but only in the sense that it happened millions of times. New York City not as a melting pot but a gigantic anvil annealing a certain toughness, an indestructibility, in these former peasants who knew nothing of the world before they were thrown into it. A miracle actually. Why no commemorative statue to the courage and daring it took?

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jessaka

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. JEWS WITHOUT MONEY The author’s real name was Isaac Granich, and this book was loosely based on his own childhood memories. In doing research I learned that Gold was a communist who wrote for the communist magazine, The Liberatora where he expressed his strong views. I found this one to be interesting: "The Russian Bolsheviks will leave the world a better place than Jesus left it. They will leave it on the threshold of the final victory—the poor will have bread and peace and culture in another gene JEWS WITHOUT MONEY The author’s real name was Isaac Granich, and this book was loosely based on his own childhood memories. In doing research I learned that Gold was a communist who wrote for the communist magazine, The Liberatora where he expressed his strong views. I found this one to be interesting: "The Russian Bolsheviks will leave the world a better place than Jesus left it. They will leave it on the threshold of the final victory—the poor will have bread and peace and culture in another generation, not churches and a swarm of lying parasite minister dogs, the legacy of Jesus." So much for getting a better world. Immigrants came to America for various reasons and ended up at Ellis Island before being sent to live in the tenement apartments in New York City’s East Side where their living conditions were deplorable. I remember reading about rats in apartment buildings, but I don’t recall what else was wrong with those apartments, and there are Americans today that live like they did, where landlords don’t fix leaks in the roofs, or the plumbing, electricity or even the heaters. And if you don’t pay the rent you are out on the street. I know that some cities have rent control laws, and they really help but back then you had nothing. What Gold does in his book is describe his family’s living conditions in one of the tenements: the starvation, lack of work, having only neighbors to help them in time of need--neighbors who are also poor. I think of how all of this could have been solved by having employers who paid a person higher wages and gave them medical coverage, but medical coverage probably didn’t exist back then. Sick leave; they could have given them that as well. Things have not changed much over the years, but Roosevelt’s New Deal went a long way to helping people. I remember reading that F.D.Roosevelt gave us social security and the jobs program because the influential communist party told him what would happen if he didn’t help his people, but ever since, the Republican Party has been trying to end these programs. Making America great again must mean living in conditions like what are in this book. While reading this, I thought of my own childhood of growing up in a small town where I felt safe, where I had the run of the town, the hills and the river. When I see what Michael had to deal with, I realize how wonderful my own childhood was. Our river was clean, while his, the East River, was “an open sewer with scum and garbage. It stank with the many deaths of New York. Often while swimming I had to push dead swollen dogs and vegetables from my face.” I don’t think much has changed in this area either, since man has been polluting rivers ever since, but at least in my childhood the Salinas River was clean or so I thought. He says that he could find no grass in his neighborhood. There were also no trees, flower or birds. One day he and his friend found grass growing between the sidewalk cracks. They were excited and tried to save it, but it died. I take grass, trees, and flowers all for granted. He had a lot to deal with: “everywhere the garbage, plop, bun, and another fat, spreading bundle dropped from a tenement window,” because, instead of walking downstairs, garbage was just thrown out windows. Then there were the “flies and bedbugs that kept him awake at night. There were also sick cats, sun struck horses, men and women, not to mention the prostitutes, or the killings. Wages were low, and if you couldn’t work, you were just out of luck and kicked out on the street. Not to mention how hungry he was most of the time. Still, I found his story entertaining because I like reading about kids childhood, that is, when they have free range of the neighborhood. He ended his book by saying: “O workers’ Revolution, you brought hope to me, a lonely, suicidal boy. You are the true Messiah. You will destroy the East Side when you come, and build there a garden for human spirit. O Revolution, that forced me to think, to struggle and to live. O great Beginning.” Things never worked out as he would have liked them too. Mankind is way too selfish, too greedy. As for me, I can’t imagine liking communism, but I would like Democratic Socialism or as some claim of Bernie Sanders, he wants to bring in a New Deal.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dov Zeller

    Living as an immigrant on the Lower East Side during the '30s was tough, and Gold isn't one to be shy about the oppressive nature of poverty. A lot of people complain that his communist political leanings can cut into the beauty of his prose--that his politics are in opposition to his artistry. I don't really have that same impression, but maybe I am looking at it from a different angle? In any case, the intensity and richness of immediate experience is wonderful and the pacing, unusual. It is a Living as an immigrant on the Lower East Side during the '30s was tough, and Gold isn't one to be shy about the oppressive nature of poverty. A lot of people complain that his communist political leanings can cut into the beauty of his prose--that his politics are in opposition to his artistry. I don't really have that same impression, but maybe I am looking at it from a different angle? In any case, the intensity and richness of immediate experience is wonderful and the pacing, unusual. It is a book of bursts more than a building narrative I think. (Perhaps a little in the Picaresque tradition?) There's a feeling that the writing's been soaked in the flavor of the time the way a cake might be soaked in brandy. The world erupts all around and it's tragic, comic, soulful and musical. "The whole tenement was talking and eating its supper. The broken talk came through the airshaft window. The profound bass of the East Side traffic lay under this talk. Talk. Talk. Rattle of supper dishes, whining of babies, yowling of cats; counterpoint of men, women and children talking as if their hearts would break. Talk. Jewish talk." As much as there is of brutality there is also wonderful humor. Here is a quote from a review in Jewish Ideas Daily (in which the reviewer thinks Gold is too obsessed with poverty.) "The chattering of Mrs. Fingerman's parrot, who has been taught to curse in Yiddish, comes down the airshaft: 'Thief! Bandit! Cossack! I spit on you! A black year on you!' The family laughs, the father praises the parrot as a good Jew and drinks another glass of beer, and the reader is reminded that much more than poverty shapes the lives of even the most impoverished among us." http://www.jewishideasdaily.com/720/f... I read this book probably a year or two ago and want to read it again soon (and hopefully write a more in-depth review.) But I was thinking about it and thought I would jot a few notes in the mean time. So, that's all for now.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

    Written in 1930, this is a fictionalized memoir of growing up poor and Jewish on the Lower East Side of Manhattan: street urchins defend their territory, prostitutes, pushcart peddlers and other marginal businesses crowd the streets, and poor Jews, Italians and Irish live--not always peacefully--in the same tenements. Landlords refuse to provide heat and then evict objectors. Children leave school because their desperate families need their wages, to the chagrin of the Anglo public school teache Written in 1930, this is a fictionalized memoir of growing up poor and Jewish on the Lower East Side of Manhattan: street urchins defend their territory, prostitutes, pushcart peddlers and other marginal businesses crowd the streets, and poor Jews, Italians and Irish live--not always peacefully--in the same tenements. Landlords refuse to provide heat and then evict objectors. Children leave school because their desperate families need their wages, to the chagrin of the Anglo public school teachers. The last chapter gives a ray of hope with the rise of the Socialist Workers Party and labor unions.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Julia Damphouse

    Mike Gold (Itzok Isaac Granich) wrote and edited prolifically for American communist journals throughout the 20’s and 30’s, but this is his only novel. While not “history” in the proper sense the book no doubt holds historical value for its status as a well-known example of “proletarian literature” and for its subject matter of the living conditions of Jewish immigrants in New York. Despite the clear political aim it largely avoids becoming didactic, at times it feels extremely visceral and viol Mike Gold (Itzok Isaac Granich) wrote and edited prolifically for American communist journals throughout the 20’s and 30’s, but this is his only novel. While not “history” in the proper sense the book no doubt holds historical value for its status as a well-known example of “proletarian literature” and for its subject matter of the living conditions of Jewish immigrants in New York. Despite the clear political aim it largely avoids becoming didactic, at times it feels extremely visceral and violent (a more pedestrian descriptor like “gritty” would not this work justice), at other deeply moving and occasionally beautiful. A self-evident classic.

  6. 4 out of 5

    ABC

    This book is about the horrible hardships of living in a New York slum at the beginning of the 20th century. At first I just found it sort of disgusting because it talked about prostitution and gang rape and bedbugs, but then the book became interesting as it delved into what brought his father to America, and about his cousin Lena, and so on. I think it may be a pro-Communism or pro-Socialism book??? Because on the last page, it says, "O workers' revolution, you brought hope to me..." It was pub This book is about the horrible hardships of living in a New York slum at the beginning of the 20th century. At first I just found it sort of disgusting because it talked about prostitution and gang rape and bedbugs, but then the book became interesting as it delved into what brought his father to America, and about his cousin Lena, and so on. I think it may be a pro-Communism or pro-Socialism book??? Because on the last page, it says, "O workers' revolution, you brought hope to me..." It was published in 1930, however, the writing style is such that it feels like it could have been written last year. It is very modern and easy to read. If there is a flaw, it is that it skips from story to story to story. There is a character who dies (I am not saying who it is because I don't want to give away the spoiler!). However, I didn't feel much emotion, because this character had hardly been previously discussed in the book. The author could have gone more in depth at certain places.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Carrie O'Dell

    How could I pass up a book with this title, really? It reminds me of "The Jungle" the kind of book that's written to make people think about the suffering others go through to produce their consumables, but sometimes ends up making them think about the gross things that might be in their food or clothing rather than the people who have to work in the horrible conditions described. I also had a kind of surreal moment reading about Lower East Side slums on the subway and then hopping off the train t How could I pass up a book with this title, really? It reminds me of "The Jungle" the kind of book that's written to make people think about the suffering others go through to produce their consumables, but sometimes ends up making them think about the gross things that might be in their food or clothing rather than the people who have to work in the horrible conditions described. I also had a kind of surreal moment reading about Lower East Side slums on the subway and then hopping off the train to go to Whole Foods exactly where the main character lives in poverty in the book. (But really, Whole Foods Bowery is the best Whole Foods in New York, there's a fromagerie!)

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer S. Brown

    I clearly have a soft spot for books about the 1920s and 1930s, but this autobiographical novel about Jews on the Lower East Side in the early 20th century (the book was published in 1930) gripped me. The novel is episodic, jumping from story to story, giving insight into all facets of life for the poverty stricken immigrants. The book is rough in parts--the descriptions are gritty--but appealingly so. I felt myself wondering how any person/family could possibly lift himself/themselves from such I clearly have a soft spot for books about the 1920s and 1930s, but this autobiographical novel about Jews on the Lower East Side in the early 20th century (the book was published in 1930) gripped me. The novel is episodic, jumping from story to story, giving insight into all facets of life for the poverty stricken immigrants. The book is rough in parts--the descriptions are gritty--but appealingly so. I felt myself wondering how any person/family could possibly lift himself/themselves from such desperate conditions. This book was mesmerizing as it allows us a peek in to a New York that is so remote from what it is today.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kressel Housman

    I'm giving up on this one. I've read plenty of portrayals of Jewish life on the Lower East Side before, and this one is focusing on the lowest of the low, like thieves and prostitutes. No thanks!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Safa Imad

    First book of 2018 is here, and it is amazing. This is by far one of the best book i have ever read. I read the arabic translated version of this book, and it was translated flawlessly and beautifully. The book is so old, i expected it to have that classic way of writing, you know, i expected it to be difficult with lots of descriptive terms that i would not understand, but oh god, it flowed so smoothly, when i read it, i dived into a world that i did not want to be a part of, but i suddenly was First book of 2018 is here, and it is amazing. This is by far one of the best book i have ever read. I read the arabic translated version of this book, and it was translated flawlessly and beautifully. The book is so old, i expected it to have that classic way of writing, you know, i expected it to be difficult with lots of descriptive terms that i would not understand, but oh god, it flowed so smoothly, when i read it, i dived into a world that i did not want to be a part of, but i suddenly was, and it was just sad. I was so emotional over it, that i cried almost throughout the whole book. In this book, the writer described the lives of many jews in the past, the horrid horrid past of theirs. But when you think about it, the reality they lived, it’s not just connected to them, it’s the reality of a lot of other people, from different religions, and countries. Poverty is a disease, that does not know a religion, a gender, an age, a nationality, it can happen to you, to me, to anyone at some point of time. The writer described poverty in an honest and a raw manner. It did not conceal some facts, nothing at all, he just laid it all out there, and it was just plain sad to read. I did not want anyone to suffer, but people did. I did not want anyone’s dreams to shatter, but they did. I did not want anyone to die, but some have died. We don’t want a lot of things to happen, but they do anyway, because we just can’t help it. Poverty makes people do the unthinkable, people can resent something, because it’s against their traditions and beliefs, but they do it when there is no one else to help them, and they lost hope and can’t help themselves anymore. In poverty you can see an adult turns mad, a child turns into a monster, some friends survive, some others die. You can see a blooming flower die, even animals can’t make it, as they turn into skeletons and fight for a last breath for survival. It is a sad reality of people in the past, people in the present, people in the future if help is not provided. I wish there was not any poor soul in the world, i wish and i wish, and i will keep on making those prayers and wishes so that one day, it will get better.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Somewhere in Mike Gold's failed autobiographical novel is a great work waiting to be revealed. As it stands, this dark and dreary episodic glimpse into the Jewish immigrant slums in New York at the turn-of-the-century is clunky and awkward, with rapid-fire, staccato sentences that leap from one topic to the next: prostitution, young gang members, crooked merchants, the stress of extreme poverty on family life, the search for work, the impossibility of upward mobility, etc. At times, I was remind Somewhere in Mike Gold's failed autobiographical novel is a great work waiting to be revealed. As it stands, this dark and dreary episodic glimpse into the Jewish immigrant slums in New York at the turn-of-the-century is clunky and awkward, with rapid-fire, staccato sentences that leap from one topic to the next: prostitution, young gang members, crooked merchants, the stress of extreme poverty on family life, the search for work, the impossibility of upward mobility, etc. At times, I was reminded of Jacob Riis' journalistic work How the Other Half Lives and Upton Sinclair's Chicago novel The Jungle, more so than Henry Roth's far better novel of the New York Jewish ghetto, Call It Sleep. Gold seemed more intent on shocking with sharp emotional jabs rather than crafting a holistic work of fiction. In fact, when the final chapters begin to jell into a more coherent narrative, Gold abruptly ends the novel with a chapter summarizing the protagonist's long string of jobs as a teenager before his discovery of the labor movement. Indeed, Gold glosses over what should have been the most significant events in this character's journey, telling us HOW the labor movement became his source of strength and liberation. In failing to flesh out these events, Gold left out the most important part of the protagonist's development. While Jews Without Money may be an interesting look at life in the Jewish immigrant ghettos (to be read alongside Riis' chapter on the same topic in How the Other Half Lives), it isn't very successful as a work of fiction, which is unfortunate, since the subject matter (and the bold title) seemed so promising.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Jews Without Money, Michael Gold, Bard Books, 1958 This is a partly autobiographical novel of life in the tenements of New York's Lower East Side in the early part of this century. It's a day-in-the-life tale of thieves, gangsters, and honest folks just trying to get by in a new country. Gold's father, whose desire to run his own business is greater than his ability to actually run the business, is injured at work and confined to bed for a year. Different ethnic groups congregate on different cit Jews Without Money, Michael Gold, Bard Books, 1958 This is a partly autobiographical novel of life in the tenements of New York's Lower East Side in the early part of this century. It's a day-in-the-life tale of thieves, gangsters, and honest folks just trying to get by in a new country. Gold's father, whose desire to run his own business is greater than his ability to actually run the business, is injured at work and confined to bed for a year. Different ethnic groups congregate on different city blocks; finding someone from a different block on "your" street is taken very seriously by the children and adolescents. Feeling that their worship isn't complete without a rabbi from the old country, the neighborhood Orthodox Jews, very poor themselves, pay the sea passage for a young rabbi to come to America. He turns out to be a jerk, and, at the first opportunity, splits for a larger congregation. Gold does a wonderful job at putting the reader right in the middle of the sights, smells and sounds of people who may be materially poor, but very rich emotionally. This has been called the urban version of John Steinbeck's great agricultural protest novel,The Grapes of Wrath. This book is that good. It's a very passionate piece of writing, and is highly recommended.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Miriam Jacobs

    Been reading a lot about this culture and the wave of immigration - 1890 to 1924 - that spawned it, and not so incidentally supplied burgeoning American factories (read: horrendous conditions) with labor at an average salary of 6 - 8 dollars per week. An entire chapter of Jews Without Money I believe is based on the foreground of an image, a photograph circa 1900 of the pushcart street on Lower East Side. This history is well-known - people living 8, 9, 15 to a room, and every day hundreds of jo Been reading a lot about this culture and the wave of immigration - 1890 to 1924 - that spawned it, and not so incidentally supplied burgeoning American factories (read: horrendous conditions) with labor at an average salary of 6 - 8 dollars per week. An entire chapter of Jews Without Money I believe is based on the foreground of an image, a photograph circa 1900 of the pushcart street on Lower East Side. This history is well-known - people living 8, 9, 15 to a room, and every day hundreds of job openings, but thousands of applicants (sounds like now, right?). One great irony of history is, despite Immigration's open-door era, once this population arrived - Irish, Italian and (mostly) Galaician Jews - they found 'No Jews (Irish, Italian) Need Apply' - creating the desperation that allowed $7 per week - bigotry not by-the-way, but fuel. Michael Gold is not a great writer and Jews Without Money is not a novel, but fanciful reportage, fanciful in that it combines autobiography with the public record - like the photo I refer to above. But it gives the public record individual voice, a dive into the corner of the photograph.

  14. 5 out of 5

    DeMisty Bellinger

    This is a candid and unapologetic look at growing up Jewish and immigrant in New York during the turn of the century. Gold’s underlying message is that poverty is the root for all the problems in that community, and in this work, posited Communism as an alternative. He even, at the end of the book, likens the proletariat to the waited-for messiah. Many of the characteristics of the books of similar subjects and time period can be found in Gold’s piece. It is as brutal as Crane’s Maggie or Norris This is a candid and unapologetic look at growing up Jewish and immigrant in New York during the turn of the century. Gold’s underlying message is that poverty is the root for all the problems in that community, and in this work, posited Communism as an alternative. He even, at the end of the book, likens the proletariat to the waited-for messiah. Many of the characteristics of the books of similar subjects and time period can be found in Gold’s piece. It is as brutal as Crane’s Maggie or Norris’ McTeague, but Gold is much more sympathetic to those within that particular ghetto and to workers as a whole.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Grace

    This book is an interesting look at the corrupt times when immigrants lived in neighborhood slums and crime was daily life. The book reveals the hardships of the times that lead its inhabitants to join gangs, enter prositution or slave away in factories or shops to survive. Told from the viewpoint of a young boy, the narrative sometimes slips to reveal that it is actually the grown up boy looking back into his past. While it is based on events that really happened, it is not necessarily to the m This book is an interesting look at the corrupt times when immigrants lived in neighborhood slums and crime was daily life. The book reveals the hardships of the times that lead its inhabitants to join gangs, enter prositution or slave away in factories or shops to survive. Told from the viewpoint of a young boy, the narrative sometimes slips to reveal that it is actually the grown up boy looking back into his past. While it is based on events that really happened, it is not necessarily to the main character and his family. The stories and characters introduced is relatable in one way or another. In a way, it points out the importance of money for success in that kind of living situation.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Schmenny

    Okay, he's got some pretty florid prose, and the book ends in one of the most absurd and abrupt ways possible, but the historical detail of Jewish ghetto life in the Lower East Side around the turn of the century was fascinating. Also, sometimes I have a soft spot for poor people with class pride/animosity.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Harold

    Interesting book about growing up in a tenement. (I ran across it at the tenement museum in NY.) Called a novel, it is for all practical purposes a memoir. Angela's Ashes for the turn of the century NY. Don't expect great writing or character development. It is the sense of the tenements, and what it was like to grow up there, which permeates; and is memorable.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Abdulaziz Alfawzan

    This book is a sociological wonder--full of "stereotypes" but completely truthful for the time period. It is also a tragic study of one young person who gives their all to a political ideal in the belief that it is the only way to improve their social standing. What is really enjoyable is the newspaper easy-read of the narrative, which is yet still colorful and poignant.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Robert Chasen

    Kind of like an early 20th century socialist version of the Tevye stories, this 'novel' is a first person series of stories about the author's turn of the century childhood on the lower east side. More like a series of parables than a novel, the prose style is an interesting mix of activist journalism and family legends.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bhaskar Sunkara

    A landmark book. A classic piece of American proletarian literature and Jewish cultural history too.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sverre

    This is an autobiography about poverty, ignorance, prejudice, racism, violence, sickness, death and misery. It happens in New York’s East Side, centred on the dwellers in the tenements, during the 1900s to 1920s. Being the first significant piece of Jewish literature published in America, it deserves to be better known. Its depressing darkness serves to shine a light on the reality faced by poverty-stricken European immigrants who arrived to expect success, riches and happiness but instead found This is an autobiography about poverty, ignorance, prejudice, racism, violence, sickness, death and misery. It happens in New York’s East Side, centred on the dwellers in the tenements, during the 1900s to 1920s. Being the first significant piece of Jewish literature published in America, it deserves to be better known. Its depressing darkness serves to shine a light on the reality faced by poverty-stricken European immigrants who arrived to expect success, riches and happiness but instead found an existence in which just staying alive from day to day became their focus. Gold’s style of writing is Spartan but achieves its objective: to blame all society’s ills on people’s state of poverty, a result of the privileged few exercising their power over the weak. We are offered hundreds of anecdotes from Gold’s childhood and youth, living in a Jewish enclave of the tenement district. He describes a life of hellish turmoil and tragedy. With staccato sentences he weaves a tale of brutish despair. It was driven home to me that Jewish society was often victimized by its own distrustful hate and scorn for Christians and all people of other ethnicities. By comparison this book can provide its readers with a newfound realization that overwhelming social progress has been achieved in most parts of the world during the last one hundred years. But it is still very much an ongoing process that must continue.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kyle

    A proletarian novel of the 30s, this chronicles a few years in the life of a Jewish boy on Chyristie St. in the Lower East Side before WW1. 101 Uses For a Dead Cat has nothing on this kid, who has little else to play with. Lots of dead cats, dogs, horses and people. Prostitutes, peddlers, gangsters and Tammany Hall stooges. Very vivid and colorful, but not too charming in the way A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is. Doesn't romanticise poverty. Elucidates the plight of the worker. Very Jewish, but not e A proletarian novel of the 30s, this chronicles a few years in the life of a Jewish boy on Chyristie St. in the Lower East Side before WW1. 101 Uses For a Dead Cat has nothing on this kid, who has little else to play with. Lots of dead cats, dogs, horses and people. Prostitutes, peddlers, gangsters and Tammany Hall stooges. Very vivid and colorful, but not too charming in the way A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is. Doesn't romanticise poverty. Elucidates the plight of the worker. Very Jewish, but not enough Yiddish for me. My favorite quote: "Every persecuted race becomes a race of fanatics." Good book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Neil Crossan

    More anecdotes than story, this book never demands an emotion investment. It never demands you feel something for these characters and their struggles. I do think he did a nice job with the setting and the story is very readable with good pacing. But when he tries to bring you into a home I didn’t feel the poverty or the anxiety that goes with it, perhaps because the boy doesn’t spend enough time with his family. To me it’s more of a tourist bus ride through 1930’s ghetto New York, “And on the r More anecdotes than story, this book never demands an emotion investment. It never demands you feel something for these characters and their struggles. I do think he did a nice job with the setting and the story is very readable with good pacing. But when he tries to bring you into a home I didn’t feel the poverty or the anxiety that goes with it, perhaps because the boy doesn’t spend enough time with his family. To me it’s more of a tourist bus ride through 1930’s ghetto New York, “And on the right hand side of the bus are some poor Jews getting cancer from the lead paint.”

  24. 4 out of 5

    Michael Stuart

    Powerful depictions of the lower east tenements in the early 20th century that portrays its poverty stricken subjects with dignity. Unrelated, but Michael Gold once wrote something in his paper about Earnest Hemmingway that so enraged him that he went to the paper's office. When he was denied entrance, he looked up and shouted, "TELL MICHAEL GOLD THAT EARNEST HEMMINGWAY SAYS 'GO FUCK YOURSELF.'"

  25. 5 out of 5

    Just A. Bean

    Really enjoyed this. There's not really a plot, but the cast of characters and scenes are vivid and interesting. I really liked Gold's animated language and intensity. For all its gloomy subject matter, it's very funny, and largely avoid cliché. Unfortunately, the digital edition I had seemed to be missing some sections. Still worth a read though.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

    This tells the story of a Jewish boy growing up in Manhattan during the early twentieth century. I liked it because it was a fast easy read, and gave me great insight toward the working class victims of the time in the U.S.

  27. 5 out of 5

    MaryKai Boulton

    It was a great book but a very different style of writing. I have to admit that it was a real eye-opener to me in regards to the life that young kids grew up in back in the early 1900's. I loved how personal and close the writing style made me feel. Very real!! Love it!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rob Cohen

    Just ok-- nothing terribly new, an interesting writing style with no real beginning or ending. Just snippets of events with no real story other than a reflection of life in that time and in that area.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Shaun

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Mike Gold's Jews Without Money is not a highfalutin piece of modernist literature that strives towards an aesthetic ideal or a contemplative/critical praxis of ars gratia artis. When considered as a contemporary of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Hart Crane, Gold is unusual, and his 'novel' is doubly so. This is not to claim that Gold's book is somehow inferior to any works by his contemporaries, but I find it is useful for framing what exactly Gold is up to in Jews Without Money. Even though he is m Mike Gold's Jews Without Money is not a highfalutin piece of modernist literature that strives towards an aesthetic ideal or a contemplative/critical praxis of ars gratia artis. When considered as a contemporary of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Hart Crane, Gold is unusual, and his 'novel' is doubly so. This is not to claim that Gold's book is somehow inferior to any works by his contemporaries, but I find it is useful for framing what exactly Gold is up to in Jews Without Money. Even though he is more of a realist writer, he does not entirely lose the drive towards romantic sympathy found in Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Even as his writing is typified by a clean and clear prose style, Gold matches the tenderness found in the knotty metaphoric logic of Hart Crane. Even as he is a Marxist writer, definitively writing a novel that is more biography than fiction so as to demonstrate the plight of the working class, he is a peer of Hemingway's for his attention to the power of storytelling. Certainly holding Gold up to his contemporaries says little about his work and more about there own, but my point comes down to this. Jews Without Money is not lauded for its innovative or especially technical style, nor is it praised for pushing the bounds of literary achievement. Gold should be seen as as serious a writer as any of these heavyweight modernists however, because what he may lack in the particular stylization, he makes up for with a knack for honest depictions of human misery, joy, and experience. Gold values the power of the story in telling how the other half lives, as well as the capacity for any story to blind a person from the truth of their circumstance. Herman, the main characters father and quite probably a direct portrait of Gold's own father, wraps himself in the comforting visions of success that America brings, and in doing so brings himself to the brink of ruin. Herman desires so much to become a millionaire that he is willing to defend the very landlords and bosses that exploit his labor and keep him down in poverty. This is not so different than Leo Gatsby's fictionalized vision of Daisy Buchanan, or really any of the millions of stories that people tell themselves in order to survive in the world. The fictions remain integral to our being, they bring us solace even as they destroy us. Gold's voice here is distinctly American. Certainly his focus is on the suffering of immigrants in particular, but every so often a phrase or homage to Walt Whitman's ecstatic verse will appear. The focus upon the degenerates and the clashes of viewpoints within the Lower East Side make this novel more anthropological than political at times, as Gold gives equal weight to different characters no matter what side of the political spectrum they fall upon. Obviously he gives more time to his principle actors, and he still has his own agenda that favors the proletariat, but Gold still takes time to give various figures complexity. Louis One Eye, for example, is a gangster in the novel who attempts to rape Mike's aunt, but is not portrayed simply as abominable. Louis also has a mother in the novel, and while Gold's narrator is far from dismissing the wrongdoing of Louis, he is hesitant to dismiss his humanity. This democratic approach, a view of both sides seems to me distinctly American, as Gold recognizes that these unsavory characters were still apart of the community, and his commitment to a realistic perspective dictates their inclusion as more than just caricatures. Another aspect of Gold's realism comes with the constant barrage of human misery and filth all across the book. Gold shows the East Side of New York during the turn of the 20th century with all of its refuse and garbage and slums. The hellish conditions that Gold's character's inhabit are important to the narrative, and in some ways the very city becomes alive. Whole neighborhoods take on personalities of their own. The East River with all of its sewage becomes a place of play for the young boys, and the vacant lots become battlegrounds for street gangs. The animation of Gold's descriptions, the peopling of his world, is truly extraordinary, and adds another dimension to the novel. It adds an active quality to everything that happens, and it seems often that America is resisting the immigrant populations by force rather than by ideology. Overall, an excellent book. The precision of Gold's prose, as well as his somewhat ecstatic digressions really add a character to this book unlike any of his contemporaries. Admittedly, Gold's writing is not as mystical or magical as other writers, but his focus on sympathy, for the poor and all, makes the novel worthwhile. At moments it is difficult to read because of its realism, but the novel stands as a testament to the conditions and reactions towards poverty in the first half of the twentieth century. I have not even had a full thought devoted to the elements of race and religion and their subsequent intersections with class identity within the novel, but I intend to revisit the novel more and more and fully flesh out my understanding how these identities and persons interact and exist.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    Reading the introduction was essential to me, for explaining about the author, his views, and his prejudices. I think this book is a required reading for life.

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