A Literary Magazine in Support of the Jewish Community

Back to Issue Eleven


"Jew Boy" by Kenneth White

Jew Boy

Summer weekend in America 1959, an early memory

one of the first I know to be

my own, a drive upstate

I need to pee

but we can’t stop. Not here, not where





reads the handwritten sign taped to the door

of some small-town roadside lunch joint, maybe a gas station

it’s a long time ago, but here’s what I am clear about:

We couldn’t stop, not there, being Jews

before I knew what being Jews meant.


Back in the car my brother pointed and squealed at me,

and Dad yelled at me to stop,

and Mom yelled at Dad to stop the car.

So there I was, standing at the side of the road

pissing the last of it, my back to the passing cars


maybe filled with people from the place with the sign

who I imagine yelled, Jew Boy,

out their open windows, snickering at the child

hiding behind the big green Oldsmobile

so long ago.


Over the years my Dad told and told the tale

making it our story in the story of his America

each time reminding his listeners of the sign

what it said, adding (he had his act down),

“At least we got top billing.”

Kenneth White

Kenneth White earned a Masters in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University back in 1978. While he never gave up writing, he did not seek publication for decades, a time when a rather consuming professional life involved running a family of nonprofits dedicated to saving both pet animals and wildlife. He’s recently transitioned into semi-retirement (still consulting for the organizations he ran) and has recommitted to writing and finding homes for his work (some recent success with poems recently or set to soon appear in Minyan, Abandoned Mine, Iconoclast, and Raven’s Perch).



Kenneth White