Monday, December 6, 2010

The Last Block in Harlem, by Christopher Herz

The Last Block in HarlemWhile he may not have been born and raised in Harlem, to him, it was home.  And he did not want it to change.  Or, if it was going to change, it needed to go back to the way it used to be.  This neighborhood belonged to the people, they just needed a reminder to take ownership.  Perhaps that was his purpose in life, to revitalize Harlem, at least his block of Harlem, and give it back to the people.  But at what cost?

I challenge any reader to try to get through this book without feeling like he or she also lives in Harlem.  Really, this book pulls you in that well.  And though we are never told our narrator's name, we know him quite well by the time we leave this story.  This book will inspire you, and break your heart.  It will challenge you to re-evaluate the way you live your life, and how you want to impact the people and places around you.

I like that the book did not resort to being overly gritty or dramatic in its portrayal of this historic neighborhood.  I felt the story was accurate, real.  As if these were the voices of the real Harlem residents being channeled through Herz's writing.  I think this book is an amazing work.

I love the fact that when he first wrote the book, Herz sold copies just by walking around the city and talking to people on the street.  Each time he sold a copy, he talked to the buyer and got his or her story.  He publishes these stories on his blog http://www.herzwords.com/.

I think this book is an incredible find, a real piece of New York life.  But do not just take my word for it, read it for yourself.  See if it haunts you the way it did me.

A touring copy of this book was made available by Crazy Book Tours.