“Ghetto to Ghetto” devotes equal time to Adams’ life before Judaism in one ghetto (Harlem) and later to his life as a Jew. It is a very balanced portrayal. And yet, Adams does not have the deft writing skill that fellow African-American convert Julius Lester. The writing is at times inconsistent, flying from clinical to astoundingly, richly poetic. The story structure is at times enigmatic and unexpected but it never loses steam. The reader never stops feeling impressed by the weight of meaning behind Adams’ powerful experiences.
Adams goes to great lengths in order to openly discuss racism in the broader community as well as the Jewish community itself. This is where his writing will resonate and shock the reader most. Will his readers be able to accept how truly racist the world can be and has been to even a most eloquent and sincere African-American man? Adams, a psychologist by profession, makes himself truly vulnerable in this memoir and we are the awed beneficiaries of the risks he takes.
But not to worry, the book is not all vulnerability and risktaking. There is plenty of fodder about Israel that will evoke smiles and “Oh yeah, me too,” sentimentality. There is also a story here about an athiest who turns to G-d. If anything, this remarkable memoir will definitely go far in changing that staid old Woody Allen stereotype about New York Jews because Adams is, truly, nothing if not a New York Jew. Like myself, he is a Jew of two diasporas.