Harry Kaplan's Adventures Underground

Harry Kaplan's Adventures Underground

by Steve Stern
     
 

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The son of an immigrant Jewish pawnbroker, Harry Kaplan discovers a world of adventure when he is transplanted from staid Brooklyn to steamy Memphis in the 1930s. The Kaplans arrive in time for public and private disasters, and Harry becomes involved with a pair of black twins who ferry him to the dives of Beale Street, and develops a marked attraction to his cousin

Overview

The son of an immigrant Jewish pawnbroker, Harry Kaplan discovers a world of adventure when he is transplanted from staid Brooklyn to steamy Memphis in the 1930s. The Kaplans arrive in time for public and private disasters, and Harry becomes involved with a pair of black twins who ferry him to the dives of Beale Street, and develops a marked attraction to his cousin Naomi, daughter of the dangerous and crafty Uncle Morris.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Set in waterlogged Memphis during the great flood of 1939, this yeasty, vibrant novel spins an unusual variation on the Huck Finn theme. For 15-year-old Harry Kaplan, recently transplanted from Brooklyn to Memphis's teeming Jewish ghetto, working in his father's pawnshop is a bore. So bookish, comically awkward Harry hooks up with two orphaned black twins, wise-guy Lucifer and his tagalong mute brother Michael. In scenes of almost hallucinatory power, renegade Harry and the twins navigate flooded Beale Street, exploring brothels, cabarets, a wrecked steamboat and the stereotypes each culture harbors toward the other. When he's not hanging out with his ``forbidden friends,'' Harry copes with his well-heeled, shady Uncle Morris, cantankerous Grandpa Isador, and with his attraction toward his mousy cousin Naomi. In Harry, Stern ( Lazar Malkin Enters Heaven ) has found a rambunctious narrator who infuses this delightful, wry tale with moments of hilarity and a slew of apt Yiddishisms. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Stern's ability to sustain his young protagonist's sense of wonder and innocence is the most remarkable aspect of this engaging coming-of-age novel. Poverty uproots 15-year-old Harry's family from the Brooklyn of the 1930s to the Jewish ghetto in Memphis. In Memphis, Harry teams with black twins Lucifer and Michael, and together they share the adventures of pawn shops, abandoned steamboats, rail cars, houses of ill repute, and a flood that places a large segment of Memphis underwater. Stern is a gifted storyteller who manages a portrayal of poverty, loss, and exile that is never self-conscious, sensational, or without the sense that his characters are struggling to survive as well as find meaning in their lives. His work is witty, charming, and, at times, heartbreaking: `` `He ain't white,' he was sorry to have to inform the gambler. `He Jewrish.' '' Highly recommended.-- Joseph Levandoski, Free Lib. of Philadelphia

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780899197241
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
Publication date:
03/15/1991
Pages:
256

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