One-Legged Mon­goose: Secrets, Lega­cies, and Com­ing of Age in the 1950’s New York

  • Review
By – November 7, 2022

This auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal tale begins with a quote from Ernest Hem­ing­way: But man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeat­ed.” It is a line of thought that appears many times as Marc Strauss recounts his mid­dle school years. The son of Holo­caust sur­vivors, Strauss paints him­self as an extreme­ly well-read, ambi­tious, loy­al, and sen­ti­men­tal but tough pre­teen. His father is a hard­work­ing, self-made busi­ness­man, and his moth­er is a house­wife, con­stant­ly clean­ing and cooking.

Marc’s non-reli­gious par­ents desire the best edu­ca­tion for him, no mat­ter the cost, and they soon decide that he must trans­fer from the local pub­lic school to a yeshi­va in Queens. Marc encoun­ters many types of char­ac­ters on his dai­ly four-hour jour­ney to school and takes upon him­self the task of pro­tect­ing his weak­er younger brother.

Strauss describes each per­son and place from his past in great detail, sup­port­ing his claim to a pho­to­graph­ic mem­o­ry. He comes up against a vari­ety of ruf­fi­ans as much as he gains pos­i­tiv­i­ty and per­spec­tive from good role mod­els — peo­ple like his librar­i­an, his teach­ers, and his father.

Through­out the book, there runs a dark yet mat­ter-of-fact note of parental child abuse. Marc keeps the inci­dents to him­self, believ­ing that his silence will pro­tect him from phys­i­cal pain. Instead of fight­ing off this cru­el fig­ure, he becomes stronger-mind­ed and more deter­mined to over­come all chal­lenges — includ­ing mul­ti­ple crit­i­cal health issues, bul­lies at school, and the mis­treat­ment of his beloved pet — through strength and rea­son­ing. He remains a car­ing broth­er, even ded­i­cat­ing this writ­ing to his sibling’s memory.

The book ends with a sam­pling of the author’s pub­lished poet­ry, so we can expe­ri­ence his many talents.

Miri­am Brad­man Abra­hams, mom, grand­mom, avid read­er, some­time writer, born in Havana, raised in Brook­lyn, resid­ing in Long Beach on Long Island. Long­time for­mer One Region One Book chair and JBC liai­son for Nas­sau Hadas­sah, cur­rent­ly pre­sent­ing Inci­dent at San Miguel with author AJ Sidran­sky who wrote the his­tor­i­cal fic­tion based on her Cuban Jew­ish refugee family’s expe­ri­ences dur­ing the rev­o­lu­tion. Flu­ent in Span­ish and Hebrew, cer­ti­fied hatha yoga instructor.

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