Inspiring, suspenseful, sometimes brutal, often hilarious and erotic, Jewboy of the South conveys the story of a Jewish teenager and his struggles, with the help of his only-in-the-South coterie – black and white – to make peace with his religion, tikkun olam, his raging hormones, and love, all while fighting to free his falsely accused black carpenter/philosopher hero.
Faced with a bitter schism between the Orthodox and Reform communities, Donny Cohen confronts and challenges, through legal and nonlegal means, the racism and anti-Semitism of his town’s justice system and its civic and fundamentalist religious leaders, both Jewish and gentile. In his quest, he must grapple with the contradictions and moral lessons of Judaism.
Jewboy of the South reflects Koplen’s acute observations about growing up in the 1950s and ’60s in a small Southern city with a tiny Jewish community. His family’s clothing store, still there since the 1880s, served both blacks and whites, including the Klan, and informed his own unique world view and activism.