Long Island Purgatory is a touching, funny, memoir with fictional elements that captures the voice of a soon-to-be thirteen-year-old, skeptical of approaching adulthood. Bennie-The-Brain, as some of his classmates and townspeople refer to him, is caught up in the aftermath of the shock waves from the JFK assassination. Perhaps intelligent beyond his years, Bennie is about to face something even more powerful than the death of his hero, something that he cannot fathom. This unusual but real treatment of racial upheaval and urban transformation in Laurelton, investigates the impact of blockbusting on the lives of Bennie, his family, and the rest of the mostly Jewish town. Blockbusting refers to a practice in which real estate agents sold a house on an all-white block to an African-American family. The panic among the remaining residents has often been referred to as “white flight”. Lewis describes a widely forgotten phenomenon of recent social history, including his own real-life horrors and painful memories. Inside this strikingly candid, vividly written account of his experience, he takes us behind the scenes in 1963. We journey with him through both frank and poignant vignettes that convey the human cost of racism. Long Island Purgatory tells a powerful and deeply personal story that allows us an unprecedented look back at a sad piece of our history.
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