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.
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.
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.
At first blush Joe Montaperto’s novel “The Edge of Whiteness,” is an angst filled memoire of his teenage years only it isn’t.Montaperto is among the few writers who have taken a whack at describing the multiple layers of culture shock a New York family, especially an Italian-American family experiences leaving their enclave in 1970s America that heeding the siren song of the tree lined, sun dappled small New Jersey town of Roselle that was so white bread one young girl in Joe’s new neighborhood dressed up as a pilgrim on Thanksgiving.Joe’s parent’s, uneasy at the shifting ethnic tides in their Italian-American corner of the Big Apple saw Roselle as a cultural and racial redoubt where they could be safe against the roiling culture conflicts of New York.However, for Joe it was never all sun and sun flowers. Almost immediately upon arrival he encountered the neighborhood toughs who emphatically, through word and deed let him know how low he stood in the pecking order this new found paradise.Joe’s high school was much like the town-at least at first. A virtual white sea of calm, closed to the jangling discords of the wider world and culture, that is, until school desegregation turned things in his world upside down introducing set black students who brought with them a slice of inner city blues, as well as a new style of dress, a different vocabulary and vocal inflections that to some seemed as alien as a patois from another galaxy.Montaperto’s book, sometimes with humor at other times melancholy, recalls his desperate efforts to navigate a path through this cultural miasma replete with episodes of unrequited teenage love, alternately being bullied by local Caucasian toughs while being ignored by black schools mates as just as another sorry ased white boy—that until he plunges into an obsessive romance with a gorgeous, drug addicted Latina and gets turned on to black culture and dress, and begins absorbing African-American history through reading the “Autobiography of Malcolm X,” that left him teetering on the “Edge Of Whiteness,” It’s there were Joe’s story takes another of its hairpin turns that his parents Sicilian parents bewildered what’s come over their off spring.All this is written in a page turning style that serves Montaperto well in this freshman novel that also makes it a joyous read.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!!
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.
Very entertaining! 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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!