YouTubeMichael Lewis’ latest piece for The New Republic explores his childhood as a gentile going to a Jewish school in New Orleans, the Isidore Newman School.
He was asked to return to the place where he was “incarcerated” from age 5 to 17 to address the Cum Laude Society — a society to which he never belonged.
Since it’s Michael Lewis, the essay reads like a clean, simple reflection but when all is said and done, it’s clear the piece is about the ongoing negotiation between who we are, who we were, and how the world sees us.
Lewis went back home to be treated with respect and to be held up as a hero, but in reality, he says, he was a pretty rowdy kid, and the memories all came back to him as he sat ready to receive an award.
From The New Republic:
….slow-motion replays of the several times I nearly succeeded in getting myself tossed out of the Isidore Newman School. There was the hook report of Johnny Tremain, pathetically plagiarized word for word from a long blurb Oil the back of the dust jacket. There was the English teacher to whom, in the wake of her scathing and accurate evaluation of my person, I had actually said, “Are you always so pleasant to deal with or is this just an especially good day for you?”
Then there was the perhaps first ever attempt to read a pornographic subtext into that singular portrait of childhood innocence, To Kill a Mockingbird. You may recall that one of its characters is a boy named Dill, who, possibly to emphasise his rootlessness, was given no last name. Possessed by some demon, I raised my eight-grade hand and announced my discovery that Dill’s father was named Robert Doe. The teacher stood frozen in place as I prodded him with the obvious follow-up questions: “So what does that make Dill’s name now?
At least he knew how to stand out, right?