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Jews Without Money

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3.80  ·  Rating details ·  684 ratings  ·  103 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published March 5th 2004 by PublicAffairs (first published 1930)
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3.80  · 
Rating details
 ·  684 ratings  ·  103 reviews


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BlackOxford
Apr 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: jewish, american
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
...more
Jessaka
Apr 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dov Zeller
Jul 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Cynthia
Nov 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
ABC
Apr 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Carrie O'Dell
Apr 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: jewish-culture
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
Julia Damphouse
Sep 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jennifer S. Brown
May 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jewish-books
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
Kressel Housman
Jul 06, 2018 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unfinished
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!
Safa Imad
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Mike
Apr 25, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: books-owned
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 ...more
Paul
Mar 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Miriam Jacobs
Apr 29, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: jewish
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 ...more
DeMisty D.
Oct 20, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Grace
Mar 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jenny Schmenny
Aug 15, 2007 rated it liked it
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.
Robert Chasen
Mar 20, 2016 rated it liked it
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.
Abdulaziz Alfawzan
Nov 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of
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.
Harold
Jul 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
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.
Bhaskar Sunkara
Sep 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A landmark book. A classic piece of American proletarian literature and Jewish cultural history too.
Sverre
Apr 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Kyle
May 23, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: jews, fiction
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
Oct 17, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Michael Stuart
Aug 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.'"
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.
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!
Shaun
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Cindy
Dec 10, 2008 rated it liked it
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.
Rob Cohen
Aug 21, 2017 rated it liked it
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.
Julia
Sep 03, 2012 added it
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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Mike Gold was the nom de plume of Itzok Isaac Granich. He was born on the Lower East Side of New York City to Romanian Jewish parents in 1894. His poverty stricken upbringing led him to radical politics and he took the name Mike Gold during the oppressive Palmer Raids of the twenties. Gold was a founding editor of The New Masses and worked as a columnist for the Communist Party newspaper, The Dail ...more