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

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

by Marc J. Straus
One-Legged Mongoose: Secrets, Legacies, and Coming of Age in 1950s New York

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

by Marc J. Straus


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It's June 1953, and 10-year-old Marc Straus is in his mother's car, getting sick from her cigarette smoke on his way to a Hebrew lesson. He and his brother, Stephen, are transferring from public school to a Yeshiva. His parents haven't said why-the family isn't religious. All Marc knows is he'll have to protect Stephen, a delicate kid other kids pick on. Marc's a street fighter who knows how to wall off pain.

So begins One-Legged Mongoose, Marc Straus's vivid, compelling, you-are-there memoir of two years in the life of a precocious, scrappy Jewish kid carrying a dark secret as he embarks on the journey to young manhood in 1950s New York. When school starts, Marc begins commuting four hours daily to a different world, where kids are smart like him and a caring principal takes the troubled truant under his wing. On Sundays, Marc works at his dad's textile store, learning about honor and hard work. At home, he faces his volatile mother.

A perceptive, courageous kid, Marc encounters anti-Semitism in public school, the community, and the Boy Scouts. On a camping trip, his troop leader asks the boys to search for a half-man-half-beast predator called the One-Legged Mongoose who devours human prey. "Why not?" Marc reasons. "I know all about monsters."

Sidelined too often by illness and accidents, including a bout with polio and being hit by a car, Marc starts rethinking his risk-taking way of life and realizes he's not invincible. Life will wound him, but the rest is up to him.

One-Legged Mongoose is a warm, funny, searing memoir about the challenges of crossing from childhood to young adulthood. It's an inspiring story of one boy's struggle to survive an abusive home, understand the world around him, and embrace responsibility for his own life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781734674040
Publisher: Greenpoint Press
Publication date: 09/14/2021
Pages: 294
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.66(d)

About the Author

Marc J. Straus is a poet, writer, medical oncologist, and art collector who lives with his wife, Livia, in Chappaqua, New York. A former professor of medicine and Chief of Oncology at New York Medical College and Westchester Medical Center, he is the author or co-author of some 100 scientific papers and editor of three textbooks on lung cancer. He is also the author of four poetry collections, including Not God, a play in verse that was staged Off Broadway, and The Bridge, a series of poems in the voice of a female cancer patient that served as the basis of a multimedia exhibit at Lehigh University's Zoellner Art Center in 2004. Marc's poems and stories have appeared in Ploughshares, Kenyon Review, Field, TriQuarterly, F&M Alumni Arts Review, and many other literary journals. He was awarded a Yaddo residency in poetry in 1993 and presented the annual Robert Penn Warren lecture sponsored by Yale's Program for Humanities in Medicine in 1998. He took gold in a New York City judo tournament in 1967 and coached the U.S. Karate Team at the Tenth Maccabiah in Israel in 1977. Marc has published more than 50 articles on contemporary art. The collection he and Livia have amassed has been featured in numerous magazines and exhibited at 12 museums in the U.S. The Strauses founded Hudson Valley MOCA, a public museum of contemporary art in Peekskill, New York, and Marc currently runs MARC STRAUS, a contemporary art gallery located on Manhattan's Lower East Side across the street from the former site of his father's textile store. One-Legged Mongoose is his first book of prose. Learn more at

Table of Contents


1. Van Wyck-3

2. Markell's Shoes-10

3. Interregnum-17

4. The Annex-22

5. Greenpea-29

6. Sugar Ray-33

7. Chess-36

8. Charlie and the Squirrel-39

9. Brown Bag-46


10. Baba Kamma-51

11. Stippled Herring-56

12. Debt Collector-63

13. Holdup-68

14. Cottonland-74

15. Passover-82

16. Spelling Bee-86

17. Dodge Coronet-91

18. Belly of the Beast-95

19. Grandma Katy-99

20. Mitchell Cooper-105


21. Iron Lung-113

22. Under the Door-124

23. Twinkie-129

24. Camp Massad-134

25. Freddie the Pig-141

26. Color War-146

27. Blue Team-149

28. The Fence-154

29. Bathtub-161

30. Road Rage-167



31. Totemanship-185

32. One-Legged Mongoose-193

33. The Vow-200

34. Hosea-207

35. Subway Ride-212

36. Studebaker-218

37. Flying-225

38. Wheelchair-227

39. Reckoning-234


40. Uncle Hy's Gifts-241

41. A Person's a Person-247

42. Pool Stick-251

43. Under the Pine-256


Poems by Marc J Straus-263


About the Author-281

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