Reading Matters

Harry Golden biographer to give free talk on Sunday night at the JCC

Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett
Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett

I stumbled onto Harry Golden’s “Only in America” and “For Two Cents Plain” in college. I fell in love with the guy, whose stories of growing up in New York’s Lower East Side popped with life. He introduced me to sights and sounds and smells so foreign to my Southern upbringing, I felt my world flinging open as I read. Little did I dream that I would one day live in the same town where he had published his famous Carolina Israelite newspaper, and where he concocted his quirky “Vertical Integration Plan,” which forced folks to look at integratrion in a whole new way.

Later, I had the good fortune to interview him and write a profile about him for the Observer. Still later, in 1981, I wrote his Observer obituary.

Yet, I confess, my memory of his early prose remains more vivid than the man himself.

It’s that period -- that golden Golden period -- that Kimberly Marlowe Harnett captures so well in her book, “Carolina Israelite: How Harry Golden Made Us Care about Jews, the South and Civil Rights.” Because that’s what Golden did best. He made you care in ways few others writers could.

Harnett will give a free talk, “Remembering Harry Golden,” at 7 p.m., Sunday in Lerner Hall, the Jewish Community Center, 5007 Providence Road. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library is sponsoring the talk, and I have an idea Harnett will take questions.

What I’d like to ask is this: What was it about Golden’s early years that infused him with such vivid powers of connection and caring? Where was his sense of justice born? And what specific circumstances allowed that sense of justice to magnetize others?

It’s bound to be a great evening. I hope to see you there.