Jewish Kid in Georgia

That’s me staring off into space in the middle row, the second kid from my teacher, with my newly integrated first-grade class in Augusta, Georgia, in 1972.

1972 Diaspora Blues: A Jewish Kid in Georgia

Here’s what happened when all the white kids boycotted my elementary school over integration—except my family.

The following is an excerpt from my work in progress. It will be incorporated into my second novel, which has the working title of Diaspora Blues. I haven’t yet changed any names. This really happened.

I’m glad I didn’t see it for myself. The way my father described it was bad enough. My three beautiful black cats had been tortured, their whiskers cut, their fur singed with cigarette burns. Our house had been vandalized, anti-Jewish epithets painted on the wall. Of all the houses on our street, why was ours chosen for this treatment? Why were our pets singled out for abuse? It was obvious to me. How else are we different from others in our neighborhood? At the age of nine, after having lived in Georgia for four years, I knew of only one way in which we were different.

We had pulled into our driveway in the summer of 1975 after a long vacation out west, and my dad could tell something was wrong with the house. He told us to wait in the camper while he went inside. He was gone only a few minutes before he came back, climbed back into the driver’s seat, and drove us out of the Confederacy for good. We did not stop until we hit Michigan. I never even got to say goodbye to my friends.

But to really understand why we left Georgia and why our house was targeted, we need to go back three years, before the Yom Kippur War, to 1972, when our school was forced to comply with a federal school integration order. For the first time, black students were going to be bused into A. Brian Merry Elementary School, where I was attending the first grade.

Read the entire excerpt on my Substack Newsletter.

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