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So through the ghetto I walked.  Blisters on the bottoms of my feet, which were

ignored only when I thought, "any moment now."  Any moment one of these people

might take the baseball bat to the side of my head.

 

 

 Books by G. David Schwartz

 

A Jewish Appraisal of Dialogue / Midrash and Working Out of the Book

 

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Shawn

By G. David Schwartz

 

When I was in Schroeder Elementary School, my best friend was named Shawn.  This was back in the days when the term “best friend” meant something.  But “best friends,” in those days, changed more quickly than classrooms.  Still, Shawn was a most interesting character, probably because I never remember him talking about homework, or a particular teacher, or anything relating to school.

But there was something different about Shawn, something obvious and somewhat unintelligible just because the difference was obvious. Shawn walked to school and I took a bus.  My mother watched the local news each evening, as this was in the days of bussing, and I never had the opportunity to tell my mother how much I enjoyed taking the bus. Every morning, sitting next to some "really fine" twelve-year-old girl and clowning around right under the driver's eyes.  Me, getting away with things like unscrewing the backs of seats, right under the very nose of the driver.  Sometimes we would pull into the circular drive in front of the school at the same time as Shawn was arriving with his heavy wool coat, and scarf, and cap tied tight, wrapped around, and persuasively trying to hide him.  But Shawn really stood out against the backdrop of the snow.

His father was a preacher.  I had no idea what that meant.  No one in my family was even the nearest equivalent, a rabbi.  Preacher. Shawn told me one day that his father "talks for a living."  Great work if you can get it.

Science was my favorite class in those days.  What we were required to memorize seemed so clear, precise, non-debatable.  I think I also liked the idea that things could be tested.  So when one day I heard some voice refer to Shawn as "Brillo head," I was very, very curious to reach under the sink at home and feel a Brillo pad.  But science also spawns a discontent.  Surely Shawn's head could not feel this wiry, brittle, and hard.

Memory has an ironic timing all its own.  Supposedly, we live in a nation at a time when comparison is not in favor.  But I spent an exorbitantly long amount of time wishing to touch Shawn’s hair, to see if it really felt like a Brillo pad.  What a scientist I was.  This was back in the days when an "exorbitantly long" amount of time may have been five minutes.

Within the same five minutes, within a week, within some immeasurable, unquantifiable time, Shawn came to school after a few days absence with a dent in his head.  A dent in his head.  His perfectly bold forehead had an actual dent where the skull had sunk below the surface in what seemed to me to be the perfect shape for the edge of a baseball bat.

I dared not question him.  I did not dare ask why he was absent, or where he received that cavity in his skull.  I don’t know where that fear of talking with a friend came from, but I knew that the evening news was no longer leading off with stories of bussing.

Obviously, and unintelligibly, something was very wrong.  My parent’s were going through a divorce. And why not!  We were the first ones on our block to have a color television.  We were the first one’s to have a microwave.  Why not be among the first to divorce?

What anguish.  I’ve since been put into positions where I want to tell my own children, in more or less words: My dear, you are at the age when nothing is supposed to be going right.  I always want to say this tenderly, compassionately, fatherly.  But it typically comes out with the words, "No, no one told you life was going to be fair.  And it’s not."       

You want fair, Go to the carnival.

My folks were taking turns pretending to be the carnival.  They were under so much pressure to be fair, or at least guard their tongue when speaking.  The result was that I grew up knowing nothing of what might have benefited me and an implicit commitment to make every mistake possible, and pay the price. Or to learn quickly to keep my own big mouth shut.

There was pressure, so much pressure to be Jewish without a working definition or clear example of what being Jewish was supposed to mean. To be proud of my heritage, but not arrogant.  To be insulated and worldly at the same time. And, yeah, to avoid the baseball bat to the side of the head.

So in this ironic time of memory, I feared being myself, feared even knowing who or what I was, and fearing becoming like "them.” There were always so many of “them” I had to avoid being like, and such unclear definitions of who "they" were.  I wanted a voice, just one clear voice, one scientific voice to tell me: Oh, my dear, you are at the age when nothing is supposed to be going right.  But there were no voices to be found.  None except the news reports.

One hot, very hot day, I decided I couldn’t take the pressure anymore and determined to go to my father's house.  But I had no money for a bus, so I started walking.  I had only a vague clue how to get to his house.  The only way I knew to go was through Avondale.  It used to be a Jewish neighborhood. Grandpa had lived there, along with the rest of the Jewish people of Cincinnati, until they all moved away.

So through the ghetto I walked.  Blisters on the bottoms of my feet, which were ignored only when I thought, "any moment now."  Any moment one of these people might take the baseball bat to the side of my head.  At any moment one of these people might ask me why I was in their neighborhood.  So I walked with my eyes to the ground, looking only occasionally from the corner of my eyes to the cars hastily passing through the ghetto.

A circus for the mind.  No one paid the least bit of attention to me.  I told this story to a friend many years later, emphasizing how the local news had talked about the violent nature of the ghetto. I knew it had to be.  The evening news told me it was.  And my friend countered with a different story.  She grew up in South Carolina, an “outcast” Charismatic Christian in a Baptist neighborhood.  Her father sold very used cars to people who would come to her father’s house to look at the cars, or pay off debts.

She told me her family invited one of the neighbors into the house, and the man stepped in with a look of suspicion.  He kept his eyes on the floor.  He was rigid and stiff.  He was terrified.  Of what, she wanted to know.  Why was he so afraid? The nice thing about imagination is that you can envision reality in any form you desire,  so I am four years old, fourteen, forty-six all at once.

I see large liquid eyed men standing on a linoleum floor in South Carolina, terrified.  Why?  Horrified.  Why?  Because they are at the same time narrow-eyed youth in Cincinnati who are prone to violence. Because they are simply non-Jews who want to assault me because I “killed Christ.” No.  Because they have a poor self-image, that’s all.  They have a very poor self-image, I’m afraid.  Things would be much better if they would have a better image of themselves.

How quite smart I was, thinking this, then watching white father knows white best on my white and black television screen.  And for real entertainment, I fly through the channel of the years and watch the repartee between Jack Benny and Rochester.

G. David Schwartz is the former president of Seedhouse, the online interfaith committee. Schwartz is the author of A Jewish Appraisal of Dialogue and coauthor, with Jacqueline Winston, of Parables In Black and White. Currently a volunteer at Drake Hospital in Cincinnati, Schwartz continues to write. His new book, Midrash and Working Out Of The Book is now in stores or can be order

posted 26 July 2006

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered

the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It

By H. W. Brands

In Greenback Planet, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands charts the dollar's astonishing rise to become the world's principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. Brands explores the dollar's changing relations to gold and silver and to other currencies and cogently explains how America's economic might made the dollar the fundamental standard of value in world finance. He vividly describes the 1869 Black Friday attempt to corner the gold market, banker J. P. Morgan's bailout of the U.S. treasury, the creation of the Federal Reserve, and President Franklin Roosevelt's handling of the bank panic of 1933. Brands shows how lessons learned (and not learned) in the Great Depression have influenced subsequent U.S. monetary policy, and how the dollar's dominance helped transform economies in countries ranging from Germany and Japan after World War II to Russia and China today. He concludes with a sobering dissection of the 2008 world financial debacle, which exposed the power--and the enormous risks--of the dollar's worldwide reign.  The Economy

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 29 February 2012

 

 

 

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Related files: Our Shared History  Shawn  Our Shared and Incomparable Sorrow