One-Legged Mongoose: Secrets, Legacies, and Coming of Age in 1950s New York (Paperback)
It's June 1953 and ten-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 younger brother, Stephen, are transferring from public school to a Yeshiva and Marc needs tutoring. His parents haven't said why they're transferring-the family isn't religious. All Marc knows is he'll have to protect his brother. Stephen's 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 fight with words instead of fists and a caring principal takes the troubled truant under his wing. On Sundays, Marc works at his dad's textile store, learning from his immigrant father about honor and hard work. At home he faces his volatile mother.
Sidelined too often by illness and injuries, Marc starts rethinking his risk-taking way of life. A voracious reader, he looks to books for insights-What would Santiago do?-and comes to accept that he's not invulnerable. Life will wound him, but the rest is up to him.