Review: The Newspaper Boy Authored by Leon Newton

By: Norm Goldman
Author: Leon Newton

ISBN: 0741423936


The following review was contributed by: NORM GOLDMAN: Editor of Bookpleasures. CLICK TO VIEW Norm Goldman's Reviews

To read Norm's Interview With the Author CLICK HERE

The Newspaper Boy by Leon Newton takes a hard look at bigotry and its consequences through the eyes of a young Irish lad growing up in New York’s Lower East Side during the early part of the last century.

The story unfolds as we we learn about the poverty of the O'Connor family, the wayward behavior of one of their son, Pat, and the tragic auto accident that took the life of their youngest daughter, Moira. We are also exposed to blatant anti-Irish feeling, wherein no matter how hard you try, you are never been accepted socially or professionally by some of your peers and the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant establishment.

The youngest O'Connor son and the novel's principal protagonist, Eric, feels compelled to fight against this bigotry and to gain acceptance into mainstream America. Fortunately for young Eric, he is befriended by a Jewish gentleman, Ira Goldstein, who agrees to finance part of Eric's university studies. When Eric asks how he can repay Goldstein, the latter replies that he already has, as he saved his life.

Apparently, Eric walked into Goldstein's jewelery store at the most opportune moment while it was being robbed, thus causing the criminals to flee before they had a chance to kill Goldstein.
However, Eric realizes that even attaining a law degree with outstanding grades from Harvard does not guaranty him a position with a prestigious law firm. The familiar Jews, Black and Irish need not apply signals are blatantly present. In the meantime, Eric marries into wealth and to a member of the very society that continually rejects him.

In a way, Newton challenges his readers to think intelligently about bigotry, class and racial prejudices. However, due to the brevity of the novel, these themes, unfortunately, are not fully developed and only surface now and then. Moreover, the novel would have benefited and the message would have been more effective, if there was the injection of a more profound dramatization of these issues and the immersing of the reader in the world of the story.
It is quite interesting to learn that according to the author, whom I interviewed, there had been feedback questioning him as to how he, an African-American, had the audacity to write about the Irish. Newton had further been asked as to why a Jewish gentleman sponsored Eric. No doubt, prejudices are still very much alive and kicking in today's so-called modern world!

Another downside of this novel is that it is marred with its lack of editing and proof reading. Moreover, many of the supporting characters slide into abstraction such as Eric's first love, Kay and his brother Pat, both of whom do play important parts in the story. There are also some incorrect historical facts, wherein the stock market crash is placed in the year 1928, when in fact it was in 1929, and reference to Hello Dolly, that in fact only acquired the name in 1964, although there were many forerunners to the play.

However, notwithstanding these flaws, the novel still merits reading, as it sheds light on the issue of bigotry, class consciousness, and racism that was not only targeted against Jews and African-Americans, but also the Irish during the early part of the twentieth century. Another plus is that it did entice me to keep on reading to find out what the hell happens next! Newton is a good storyteller.

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