The action of the novel takes place over a long weekend in the mid-2000s, as the middle-aged Goldberg travels up to Boston to visit his declining mother, meets other characters from his past, and reminisces along the way. His current preoccupations – his career and several recent failed romances – are set against the legacy of his boyhood: his monstrous father and the local antisemites and racists who (providing the book’s title) persecuted him from each side of his dual heritage; also his few friends and several unrequited crushes, especially the series of young Guatemalan girls who travelled north to live with Goldberg’s family as maids before fledging into their own American lives.
What gradually emerges from his smoothly rambling narration is a subtle, almost subliminal interplay between the bullying that Goldberg suffered in the US and the terror he was exposed to as a journalist in Central America. The memory of a beating his father gave him at a barbecue summons the imagery of killing fields: “that look of revulsion … uncinching his belt and knocking over the grill, the still-raw steaks falling like lopped-off faces to the grass”…
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(image: From the cover of Warren Sloat’s The United Fruit Co. in Guatemala, Or, Watch Out for the Top Banana, 1970)