The Edge of Whiteness
Author: Joe Montaperto
Publisher: Oak Tree Press
Date Published: May 19, 2010
Recommended Age: Adult
Reviewed By: Engelia McCullough, http://engeliamccullough.blogspot.com/
The concrete jungle. If you’re not familiar with that term please Google it as this is where Joe Montaperto story takes place. I’ll admit I’m a self-professed suburbanite with a country background. For people like me, New York City is a place you go to see the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, climb the Statue of Liberty, and see a good Broadway play or stop at one of the many Starbucks cemented on every corner. But for the author of The Edge of Whiteness this is where he grew up and it’s his home.
In 1973, Joe Montaperto is starting his freshman year of high school in Roselle, New Jersey. Three years out of his native Brooklyn and race riots, his high school is integrated. Having fled from one racial conflict only to be thrown into another, young Joe begins a journey of self-realization that puts him at extreme odds with himself, friends and family.
The Edge of Whiteness is a classic memoir that all of us can relate if we’ve ever felt the least bit out of place. It’s a non-classical coming of age story. As the reader you can’t help but at times root for Joe then pity him. His unwavering resolve to fit in and win over the saucy Esperanza with his gold Swedish knits to his fateful encounter with Hector leaves the reader thinking about their own childhood. What did you do to fit in? At what cost? How did it shape you as a person?
The book does contain explicit language and is not for the faint of heart. Related to formatting, there are instances where punctuation and line errors are distracting. The story is full of interesting characters that reads like the antithesis to Leave it to Beaver. If you don’t believe me just wait until you meet Philly, the son of the mob boss who owns the restaurant where young Joe works.
I appreciate the effort the author put into an account of his personal life. It’s not easy to put your life out there for others to read and possibly judge. I did find that the tension in the story lagged at times with too much detail and would’ve liked to see his relationship with Esperanza blossom sooner. Also, in an attempt to stay true to the characters the dialogue used can be hard to follow but the reader must view it from an urban standpoint.
Overall, this is a book of honesty and Joe Montaperto leaves nothing to chance in pulling you into what was his childhood in the era of integration. I believe this book would be a good read for those who grew up in the 1960s or 1970s and faced the same realities of Joe Montaperto. For lack of a better term, it’s literally a walk down memory lane for some, I’m sure.
Author Website: http://joemontaperto.com/blog/index.php