Monday, Oct. 8, 2012 @ 4:20 PM EST Jersey City, NJ
THE EDGE OF WHITENESS
1973. Joey Montaperto's first day of high school, in a New Jersey suburb so painfully white it makes "My Three Sons" look exotic. Things are about to change. Forced integration delivers two busloads of inner city kids to Roselle High, sending a collective shiver through the all-white student body. Jaws drop when "one by one, they pour out. Giants. Imposing black giants—and those were the girls. Then the boys swagger off the bus—or should I say grown men—howling, sneering, jive-talking and slapping palms." Nothing would ever be the same.
It isn’t long before the racial conflict becomes personal. After NaNa, a brutal, yet artistic loner, saves him from a hallway ambush, their unlikely friendship turns 15-year-old Joey
on to the cool world of black culture. Fascinated by the music of Etta James, Marvin Gaye, and the Funkadelics, Joey embraces the happenin' scene. Soon he’s pimped out in purple Swedish knits (that were never worn in Sweden), Isaac Hayes glasses, and a sizzling Puerto Rican hairdresser on his arm. Esperanza. She completes his makeover with a mod shag afro.
Joey becomes obsessed with her. He whips himself into shape, boxing at a ghetto gym, and washes dishes at an Italian restaurant so he can afford to take her out. He even breaks into school with Na-Na to paint a larger-than-life mural of Esperanza. Only to discover that she already has a boyfriend--a dealer who’s getting her hooked on heroin. Reeling from heartbreak, Joey searches for meaning in his life, finding inspiration in The Autobiography of Malcolm X. His parents think he's gone mad. Especially when he refuses his mother's homemade Italian sausage, announcing, "It’s hard to be a good Muslim in this house." Joey freaks out his entire Catholic family — and the Mafia guys at work — as he finds his "soul".
Filled with heart and wisdom, The Edge of Whiteness is an autobiographical account of one adolescent’s struggle to discover his identity. This timeless coming-of-age story is a humorous social commentary on the funky 1970's that's remarkably relevant today.
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?... 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. Engelia McCullough, Writer Maryland
When I was in high school my goal in life was to be black. I was
embarrassed about being white. The way we danced and talked and dressed
- well it was all just pathetic. Alas, my dream at singing backup for
Aretha would never come true; I was, as Joe Montaperto writes in his brilliant
and funny book, "painfully white." For anyone who lived through
the 60's and 70's as a white kid in a school with black kids,
Joe's book will bring you right back to those days. And if you don't
recall those days - or if you weren't even born yet - let Joe guide you
through the excitement and terror that black and white kids experienced
after being thrown together for the first time in integrated schools.
Joe's a perceptive thinker and a great communicator. I enjoyed the
book immensely. Elizabeth Lesser, Cofounder, Omega Institute Rhinebeck, NY
Hey Joe, congratulations! Your book is a triumph. I read the whole
thing today. Compelling storytelling, excellent style and pacing. Great
and touching ending. I'm totally impressed and will be harassing
other Omegans to buy and read it. Well done, brother. Rich Taylor, Manager, Omega Institute Rhinebeck, NY
The Edge of Whiteness is a very honest book. It tells the painful
yet funny story of a student having to deal with racial integration in
his New Jersey high school. Joe Montaperto confronts his fear and rage
by transforming himself. It his ability to cope with the insanity around
him, that gives this book its special charm. This is the 70's in
all of its raw ugliness and beauty. Paul Carty, College Professor
The Edge of Whiteness observes the changes in American society through
the lens of an Italian kid growing up outside of New York City. The nation
had adopted new civil rights legislation and mandated busing to equalize
schools. On a policy level, this was progress, but for the kids in the
schools, the first few years were mayhem.
Gender, class, family and race roles were all thrown into the mix. We've
read plenty of stuff about this time from the historian's meta level
- Montaperto brings it down to the ground. His funny, sharp recollections
capture what many observers of the time refuse to admit - we were all
just making it up as we went along - and he does it through the innocent
voice of a young middle schooler. He writes of the double standards, the
cruelty, the gestures of compassion and the hysterical human connections
made as our melting pot was pushed to the edge.
Montaperto is not politically correct, and that's ok. As an adult,
he's for the changes he lived through. As a writer, he remembers
them with a biting, honed wit. The book is at parts hysterical, at parts
maddening, and always authentic. Risky, funny and genuine. Hightly recommended. Sarah Priestman, Business Consultant Washington, DC
Bravo to you. I read The Edge of Whiteness. You have lived it, my
man. I was filled with emotion. A powerful piece. From the heartbreak
of loving someone and see them head down the path of drugs and violence,
to seeing a young boy stumble into the wrong place at the wrong time.
The read was riveting. Also enjoyed the fun times - fun playing in the
woods, snowball fights, and Star Trek. All the power to you. Thank you
for your story. Dashiell Crigler, Actor NYC
Joe Montaperto has balls of steel. In his book The Edge of Whiteness,
he strips bare the effects that busing and forced integration took on
his suburban teenage life. This is an unabashed account of bucolic tranquility
raped by liberal altruism. There are many twists, turns and surprises
in the story. An unlikely hero emerges, who I believe saved Mr. Montaperto's
life. I could not put this book down, the whole time asking myself the
question, where was I when I was sixteen years old? Arthur Lupetti, Actor Brooklyn, NY
Set in 1973 New Jersey, The Edge of Whiteness is a coming of age
story, seen through the eyes of 15 year old Joe Montaperto. On the surface,
it's a memoir of first love, changing friendships, mural painting,
Swedish knits and cannolis. But underlying that is a more serious story
about race and racism, gender and family. This is good read. Honest, authentic,
uncensored and funny. Expect to laugh out loud as well as squirm uncomfortably. Matt Bellamy, Graphic Arts Director London, England
Your book reads like a train ride! Get the hell back from wherever
you are, fly to New York and SELL this book!
Well done. Very sensitive. At around page 300, I wondered how the book
would end, but all of a sudden, it picks up again to a very sensitive,
but very realistic ending. Congratulations! Piet Sabbe, Proprietor of Bosque La Paz Resort Ecuador
MOVE OVER GORE VIDAL - HERE COMES JOE MONTAPERTO!
It's intense, well written, probably the best memoir I've ever
read. Certainly, few Sicilians born in Brooklyn could have written such
a sensitive, laugh out loud funny at times, titillating work. Loved the
scenes with Esperanza, art, the mural.... anyway, great book, Joe! Loved
it. So engaging - like you were reading it in the present. John Suave, Writer NYC
I really did like this book! A fresh look at recent American history.
Part memoir, a dash of fucked up coming of age, but mostly social/sexual
religious commentary shown through the terrible sitcom that was Joe's
life. Read it and weep. And laugh a few times. Phil Viner, Entrepreneur London, England
I met Joe in the mid-1990's on a catering job. Throughout the
years, I saw and helped out on his one man shows and realized his skill
as a writer. I bought The Edge of Whiteness from him last year and from
the moment I started it could not put it down. His writing style is very
vivid and alive. The characters job off the page at you. Having also grown
up in the 1970's I could relate to much in the book. I got very involved
in all the characters and wanted to know what would happen next!! Joe
is a very talented writer and I cannot recommend this novel enough!! James Colgan, Friend / Actor
At first glance, The Edge of Whiteness appears to be the tale of
a teenager's adventures and misadventures after moving to a new town
and high school. But it's so much more than that. It follows the
arc of a young man's rite of passage during a time when the country
was in post-1960s turmoil -- a dance between the gentle (yet rigid) sensibilities
of the 1950s, and the harsh, often disturbing, yet thrilling and life-altering
realities of the 1970s, when the world as so many knew it was simply no
longer, and everyone was trying to find their place in it -- blacks, whites,
Hispanics, teachers, students, and their parents. The contrast of Joe's
nuclear family life in suburban Roselle, NJ, and the gritty, harsh, sexy,
and oh so full of life and danger industrial towns of Elizabeth and Linden
hits the reader at full force. Joe's sometimes unwitting journey
to find love, truth, integrity, and friendship is funny, touching, and
brave. It's an extraordinary snapshot -- one that you can feel, touch,
and taste -- of living in a certain place at a certain time. Linda Woznicki, Business Consultant Jersey City, NJ
With great attention to detail, Montaperto describes coming of age in
New jersey in a racially diverse atmosphere. If you want to laugh, then
read The Edge of Whiteness. Henrik Reid, Business Consultant NYC
This is a fantastic story. One that concerns race in a way that people
usually steer clear of. It starts with the white fear of black violence.
And then shows how the central character finds a deeper experience of
himself through black spirituality. The story reflects our recent history.
How white people have seen blacks as savage while, at the same time, following
a spiritual path guided by black music and culture. The earnestness, sterility
and hypocrisy of white culture in the 50s, was warmed, deepened and opened
up by the joy found in jazz, rock, blues, gospel and the freer voices
of black expression. This story, while hilarious on every page, is really
about finding a way to overcome fear and live a richer life. Robert McCaskill, Writer NYC
The 70's are alive and well in this laugh out loud memoir; The
Edge of Whiteness by Joe Montaperto. Picture this, New Jersey 1970's.
Public Schools are now integrated, and the culture shock for most white
students is mind-boggling. Joe Montaperto is one of many who are captivated
at the difference between white and black youth as he walks down the hall
of his high school. One part intimidating, two parts intriguing, Joe sets
out to embrace black culture by any means possible.
What starts out as dated, blossoms into a memoir that transcends 70's
slang and flared checkered pants, to remind the reader of what it was
once was like to be in high school trying desperately to fit in. The Edge
of Whiteness is a perfect coming of age story set during a time where
the civil rights movement was still emerging and the need to fit in was
as important then, as it is now. Joe Montaperto's story is a perfect
blend of white fright, stereotypes and a common thread that links us all
together, as he tries to find acceptance at an awkward time in adolescence.
This memoir was a great read. I enjoyed every minute of it. This is a
perfect purchase that will have you reliving your high school years with
a smile. Joe Montaperto shows where The Edge of Whiteness ends and the
abyss of acceptance begin. JAG Review
The Edge of Whiteness is an amazing book. Super fun to read. A coming
of age story and memoir rolled into one that is funny and totally unique.
It describes the authors journey growing up in Suburban New Jersey in
the 70's. It's a triple fish out of water story. Everybody is
out of their element. The results are hilarious, dangerous and touching.
Brooklyn was exploding with race riots and violence. Joe's parents
want to get their kids away from it even if it means abandoning the Italian
neighborhood and culture they know. They move the family to an all white
town in suburban New Jersey that's about as familiar to them as landing
on the moon. Well it didn't turn out the way anyone expected. Forced
integration brings buses full of inner city black kids to Joe's High
School and the collision of cultures begins.
To me it read like a crazy raw version of a novel in the vein of Goodbye
Columbus and Catcher in the Rye.
The collection of characters is unforgettable. Tough white kids, tough
black kids, Sinatra singing mafioso, heartbreaking beautiful puerto rican
hairdresser, Italian relatives, black power, funk, afro style meets nerdy
white kid and the chaos of everyone stirred up in the melting pot of the
70's. I don't want to describe everything that happens in the
book for this review. I just encourage you to grab this book and read
it. Robert G. California
The Edge of Whiteness has been one of the most fascinating books
I've ever read in my life. It's very clear that Montaperto has
been expressing everything his heart wanted to say. Joe described perfectly
well the experiences he had in the 70's. Definitely I have to say
that this story deserves to be made into a movie just because we are missing
good writers like this kind nowadays. All we see in the movies is more
of the same. Javier Machado, Actor NYC
If you someone who came of age in the 70's you will love this
book. A sometimes painful and sometimes very funny look backat culture
and what is like to be a teenager in in Jersey, wrapped in a TRUE story.
Thanks, Joe! Dave Matos, Musician Jersey City, NJ
In a way we all grew up in the 70s (60s). But Montaperto brings such
a fierce memory with a killer ear that the reader lives the life of this
Sicilian-American teenager growing up in lily white Roselle, New Jersey
as the schools are being integrated. The whole trip of this book is traveling
with him as he leaves his comfort zone. It's real, it's hilarious. Joann Shapiro, Theater Artist
The Edge of Whiteness struck me with its visceral and raw style.
Full of color and culture clash, Montaperto's tale captures a transformative
time of life with its rites of passage set against a dynamic era in American
history. Filled with great, honest, awkward moments, I got on board immediately
with a character that continuously swings back and forth on a pendulum
of open-minded naivety to juvenile delinquency. He's Kevin Arnold
with swagger. Kara Rozansky, Producer Blowback Productions
The Edge of Whiteness, based on a true story, has the makings of
a coming-of-age classic. As if adolescent angst and alienation weren't
enough to deal with on Joey Montaperto's first day of high school,
his confusion is compounded by racial conflict when all-white Roselle
High is suddenly integrated. How Joey survives personal confrontation
keeps you turning the pages. His turmoil is palpable. The actions he takes
to overcome it are moving and hilarious. Eventually embracing the black
culture he struggles with, he goes from a scrawny artistic boy boxing
in a ghetto gym (building muscles and morale) to a soulful young man strutting
confidently through the 'hood in purple Swedish knits. Joey's
outer transformation reflects his deeper sense of belonging--his need
at the heart of the story. His attempt to save twenty-year-old Esperanza,
a gorgeous Puerto Rican hairdresser, from her heroin-dealing boyfriend
is tragic-comic romance that captures the grandeur of Joey's obsessive
teenage love. Vivid, illuminating, and funny throughout, The Edge of Whiteness
proves what Jimi Hendrix said: "With the power of soul, anything
is possible." Fran Matos, Writer/Producer LA, California
An extremely touching, personal memoir. We clearly feel and want
to follow the emotional turns and tribulations of our young hero as he
pushes headlong into one adventure after another. Profoundly alert to
his environment, and in constant relation to it, this artist, this warrior,
this lover, this spiritual disciple, crosses the various racial barriers
around him and gives voice to their actors in a clear and living way.
Ugly violence, racial tensions, taboos await our hero as he descends into
the underworld of Roselle NJ of the early '70s for his initiation
journey... and we hope that he returns in one piece. Kiriakos Katakos, M.A.
Joe Montaperto's heartfelt autobiography is better described
as a time machine, one that takes us back to the 70's, a time when
racism ran high and America's landscape was changing drastically.
It gives readers a glimpse into a time that not everyone experienced but
it puts us in his shoes. The Edge of Whiteness is a hard book to put down.
Montaperto's writing style is both humorous and intelligent which
makes for a great read. Highly recommended and waiting for the sequel! Jason S. Ward
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