By Sara Constantakis (editor), (forward by) Anne Devereaux Jordan
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Additional resources for Novels for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context, and Criticism on Commonly Studied Novels Volume 35
Wilson, 1943) he declared that 3 5 ( c) 2011 Cengage L earning. All Rights Reserved. ’’ If I dwell long on Howard Fast’s youth, this is not only because it formed him as a novelist, but also because his young life represents the American Dream writ large. It is only later that we see how the dream—temporarily—turned into a nightmare for this gifted author who, as a young man, raised himself out of the ghetto by his writing, and lived his life with the same passionate commitment that he brought to his historical novels.
His father, Barney, arriving in New York in 1878 aged nine, was given the surname Fast from his hometown of Fastov in the Ukraine. His Lithuanian-Jewish mother, Ida, who came to America via London, died when Howard was eight, leaving Barney with a nineteen-year-old daughter and three young sons. He never remarried. To avoid being tied down as second mother to her three brothers, the daughter soon left home, while the youngest son was farmed out to relatives. Barney, often depressed and either unemployed, on strike, or exhausted from working long hours at poorly-paid physical labour, was never an adequate father to Jerome and Howard, who by the time they were ten and eleven were themselves working outside school hours to help make ends meet.
In two minutes, my father could lead any argument or discussion around to being a principle. So he said grace glaring across the table at the imaginary point where he placed God, and I always felt that God had the worst of it. My father couldn’t just begin a meal with something direct and ordinary, like ‘‘Thank Thee, O Lord, for Thy daily bread and the fruit of the harvest,’’ Oh, no—no, he had to embellish it. If there was no guest at the meal. God was always present, and tonight my father said sternly: 2 4 ‘‘We thank Thee, O Lord, for the bread we eat, but we are also conscious of seed we have planted, of the hands that guided the plow and the back bent in toil.