The Street Sweeper

The framework of the novel is the relationship between Lamont Williams, a black ex-con trying to rebuild his life as a hospital janitor, and an old man in the same hospital, who’s dying of cancer and who wants to share his memories of Auschwitz.

death in summer book cover

Perlman’s story of modern New York is a big book in every sense. Huge in its scope, it covers two of the most searingly painful aspects of 20th-century history: the Holocaust and the abuse of African- Americans’ rights. The framework of the novel is the relationship between Lamont Williams, a black ex-con trying to rebuild his life as a hospital janitor, and an old man in the same hospital, who’s dying of cancer and who wants to share his memories of Auschwitz. But we also follow the fortunes of a young Jewish historian researching the role played by a black regiment in the liberation of a Nazi death camp. Perhaps Perlman’s greatest achievement, though, is the sharply drawn New York world — from the slums of the Bronx to Columbia University, from Iranian immigrants to civil-rights lawyers. All are vividly brought to life in an often extremely moving book.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest

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