FLYING OVER 96TH STREET: Memoir of an East Harlem White Boy

Thomas L. Webber, Author . Scribner $24 (273p) ISBN 978-0-7432-4750-4

This is an exemplary coming-of-age memoir written by a white man (Deep Like the Rivers: Education in the Slave Quarter Community, 1831–1865 ) who, as an eight year-old boy, in 1957, moved with his parents and siblings from a comfortable apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side to a public housing project in East Harlem. The relocation came as a result of a "direct call from God" received by Webber's father, a minister who helped found the East Harlem Protestant Parish and wanted to live where he worked. Bitterly opposed to the move at first, Webber details, with pathos and humor, how he slowly adjusted to his new circumstances and found friendship and love in one of the poorest areas of the city. A scholarship student at the all-white Collegiate School for Boys, Webber was often torn between earlier ties to wealthy classmates who never ventured above 96th Street and the working-class African-American and Puerto Rican friends he slowly began to make. In eloquent, moving language, he describes how he overcame an initial fear of the streets; his ultimately successful tries at playing basketball in the East Harlem playground, as the only white boy on the courts; and his friendship with Danny, a streetwise African-American, who yearned to be in show business. (When Danny revealed that he is gay, their friendship remained intact.) The author's parents were deeply committed to the Civil Rights movement, and there is a moving account of their participation in the 1963 March on Washington. Webber's respect for his father increased as he matured, as he realized that "Dad is the man who lives closest to the ideals and principles he espouses." The author still lives and works in East Harlem at a residential treatment school for teens in foster care. Agent, Julie Barer of Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (Sept .)

Reviewed on: 04/26/2004
Release date: 08/01/2004
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-1-4391-2560-1
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-1-4165-6965-7
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