DAYDREAMS AND NIGHTMARES: Reflections of a Harlem Childhood by Irving Louis Horowitz

DAYDREAMS AND NIGHTMARES: Reflections of a Harlem Childhood

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A fascinating yet deeply disappointing autobiographical sketch from one of America's foremost political sociologists. Horowitz recounts a youth and early adolescence that are unique for a white child, in that he was born and grew up in the heart of Harlem. This remembrance, in the form of vignette and anecdotes, has merit for what it reveals of African-American culture and society from one who lived within it but was isolated from it, and for its painful insight into a troubled family life. Born to impoverished Russian immigrants with no great love for each other, Horowitz enjoyed little affection as a child. Although burdened with health problems and a series of operations, he learned self-reliance and street ways at an early age. Adversity bred toughness; and more than anything else, these ""reflections"" record a straggle for survival against tremendous odds. Part and parcel of his education was to learn the necessity of running from confrontations with neighborhood kids; to learn ways to earn pocket change--not all of them legal--when his father refused to cough up a dime for a weekly movie matinee; and to learn from the family German shepherd the meaning of defiance against tyrannical authority. Hard lessons all, which Horowitz conveys forcefully if somewhat redundantly. The greater misfortune here, however, is that academic objectivity frequently overrules experiential immediacy, and the personal warmth that should be part of any memoir is deliberately condensed and cooled. A unique, child's-eye view of Harlem in the 1930's, with surprisingly frank glimpses into a Jewish family life in that context, but with many of the sharp edges reasoned away.

Pub Date: May 31st, 1990
Publisher: Univ. Press of Mississippi