Jews Without Money
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Jews Without Money

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  258 ratings  ·  27 reviews
As a writer and political activist Michael Gold was an important presence on the American scene for three decades. His was a powerful voice for social change and human rights. Jews Without Money, his only novel, is his fictionalized autobiography of immigrants living on the lower East Side of Manhattan.
Paperback, 309 pages
Published December 31st 1984 by Carroll & Graf Publishers (first published 1930)
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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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
So I'm posting this review a little while after the original judgement of it, I like to stew over books and see if my opinion changes. Anyway, the book is simply written in true Mike Gold fashion and reads well. Some wonderful perspective on the immigrant experience, class racism and slum life. Only three stars because I didn't think Gold went far enough with the pathos. I tend to be a book cryer and this book had some perfect moments for that but Gold just glosses over them. Granted that can be...more
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...more
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...more
Jenny 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...more
I love stories of emigration! Especially in this one there were so many Romanian Jews, including his dad, who was telling Romanian fables and singing 'doinas'(Romanian popular songs).
He sees the hard life in East Side, the poverty and his mom as reasons why he embraced socialism, but in the light of the last pages it was more the huge need to believe in something in order to resist and it happened to be "the new" socialist philosophy. Too bad he didn't realized in socialism people are equal in...more
Somber tale of life in the tenements on the lower East side of New York in the early 1900's. Well worth the read!
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...more
Neil Crossan
Nov 09, 2011 Neil Crossan rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: New York History Buffs
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
Andy Harnish
Vivid, lovely/harrowing memoiristic account of turn of century lower east side. Far less reflexively proletariat than I expected. Odd, forced ending.
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.'"
Allison Lorraine
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.
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.
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.
Natalie Sowa
This book was so lyrically written and a bit disjointed, but that's part of its charm. I was immersed in the culture of the New York City tenements and Jewish neighborhood... I fell in love with prostitutes and little boys and old, religious men that sold umbrellas. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
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.
provocative title. expose of tenement life. upsetting. interesting and colorful, though admittedly boring at parts.
Bhaskar Sunkara
A landmark book. A classic piece of American proletarian literature and Jewish cultural history too.
William West
Fascinating portrait of turn-of-the-century Lower East Side Manhattan.
intimate look into the jewish ghettos of NY. very different perspective.
Dawn Wells
Jews in the slums of New York. Loved it. Very well written. So much passion.
Such an eye opener -- and lots of symbolism.
No wonder the author was a socialist!
Sami Sayed
Sami Sayed marked it as to-read
Apr 10, 2014
Noreen marked it as to-read
Apr 06, 2014
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