A romantic but uneven memoir of growing up Irish Catholic in the Bronx, N.Y., during the 1950s and '60s. Revisiting his...




A romantic but uneven memoir of growing up Irish Catholic in the Bronx, N.Y., during the 1950s and '60s. Revisiting his childhood, Pearson (English/Old Dominion Univ.; A Place That's Known, 1994), born in 1950, offers a tour of his Bronx neighborhood, including the playgrounds, ball fields, candy stores, schools, and street corners that were his hangouts. He remembers the games of football, baseball, and stickball, as well as both the discipline and good will of the Catholic nuns and brothers who taught him, exemplifying a tough love that sometimes spilled over into sadism. He also introduces his family: a protective and loving mother, a father who (along with other fathers in the neighborhood) stopped in at the local bar every night and arrived home not only drunk, but belligerent and punitive. A long, poignant chapter, full of fantasy, explores the man his father might have been if not for WWII and missed opportunities. Here are reflections on the boys in the 'hood and their culture, but the images are often blurred around the edges: an initial essay, for instance, describing an expedition to Manhattan to view a pornographic movie, has great potential for broad humor or at least irony yet is curiously flat. The boys move through McCarthyism, President Kennedy's assassination, burgeoning sexuality, and, as they near 18, the threat of being drafted for Vietnam. Pearson escaped the draft and went on to a Catholic college, later meeting his wife and becoming a teacher and a writer. As a child, Pearson thought that, as much as he also wanted to escape, the Bronx was "as close to paradise as anyone could expect to come"; as an adult, he was disheartened by the poverty and decay he found on return visits. A limp coda, describing a current community-based rescue operation, tries to end the memoir on an upbeat note. A mix of history and memory that doesn—t quite capture either the dynamism or the distinctiveness of the Bronx.

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: ---

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Syracuse Univ.

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1999

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