Author: Kenneth Kahn
The following review was contributed by: NORM GOLDMAN: Editor of Bookpleasures &CLICK TO VIEW Norm Goldman's Reviews
To read Norm's Interview With The Author CLICK HERE
The success or failure of first person accounts invariably depends on how
effectual are the narrative powers of the author. How often have we read the
first few pages of someone’s autobiography and grumbled- this is torture and
downright boring. Such, however, is not the case with Kenneth Kahn’s The Carny
Kid Survival of a Young Thief. This is a book packed to the rim with revelatory
memories of the author’s painful childhood, growing up as the only Jewish kid in
the project neighborhood of East Los Angeles, known as Ramona Gardens.
Kahn candidly and courageously opens up and shares his perspectives concerning
his dysfunctional family that centered on his heroin addicted parents, poverty,
child neglect, crime, loneliness, surviving attacks by street gangs, his bout with
polio, rejection, and his touring during the summer months with his parents, who
worked the annual carnival scene in various US and Canadian towns.
Perhaps, the most endearing aspect of the book is the recognition that knowledge
is power, as he discovered a whole new world in books and school. As the author
states: “no matter how bad things got at home or how desperately broke we were,
the beautiful campus offered a safe haven. For five years, it had been my
savior, my security blanket…” It is within the confines of the school walls,
where Kahn found solace from the tragic experiences he was obliged to endure.
The author’s insider information pertaining to the shocking and routine scams
perpetuated on naïve customers playing the games of chance at the annual
carnivals are eye openers. In fact, as Kahn points out, there were some scams
that were so inherently evil that they required special permission from local
law-enforcement to even set them up on the fair grounds. I doubt if these
revelations will be well received by the petty thieves that operate these scams!
Kahn’s no-nonsense first person account is tragically one of many, as evidenced
by the thousands of cases of run-away children coming from homes similar to his.
No doubt, the narrative will captivate some readers and reduce others to tears,
however, let us hope in the end an invaluable lesson will be learned- if you persevere and
devote endless effort, you can achieve victories that many of us take for