“Kasher in the Rye” bears striking similarities to Salinger’s predecessor: It’s a sad, yet humorous, frank and hauntingly relatable story of a young man who is out of sorts with the world and in desperate need of comfort. The big difference is that “Kasher” is exceedingly more graphic, shocking and punctuated by violence and criminal acts that Holden Caulfield wouldn’t dare touch.
“Kasher” is the true-life story of stand-up comedian and writer Moshe Kasher, born to deaf Jewish New Yorker parents in 1979. Barely a year old, Kasher’s mother took him and his brother on a two-week “vacation” to California, never to return. Enter the hippie, hip-hop world of Oakland, California, where Kasher’s family subsisted on welfare and the support of a feminist grandmother.
Kasher’s writing is fiercely honest and wildly comical, evoking laughter instead of pity as he tells the story of his crazy rebellions as a smart but misunderstood kid. Kasher fell through the system when he was placed in special ed, finding salvation in the company of the “local shitheads.”
Anecdotes of Kasher’s rise from social outcast to drug addict, mental patient and small-time criminal in a gang of wannabe thugs by age fourteen are fiercely entertaining and uncensored.
Don’t judge so quickly, Kasher warns readers, as he shares disturbing stories of abusing and stealing from his deaf, welfare-supported mother, snorting enough Zoloft to make his eye blood red and becoming so lazy from a pot-and-alcohol-infused lifestyle that he preferred pissing in jars around his room to getting up and using the bathroom.
But Kasher eventually recognizes his own demons and learns to “stand on his own,” even after countless attempts end in relapse. Recovery is not just being sober, Kasher points out. It’s getting your shit together, for real, and relearning how to be a “nice guy.” Becoming a human being is the challenge, and not just for former addicts. (Marla Seidell)
“Kasher in the Rye: The True Tale of a White Boy from Oakland Who Became a Drug Addict, Criminal, Mental Patient and Then Turned 16”
By Moshe Kasher
Grand Central Publishing, 300 pages, $25