Thursday, August 6, 2009

On the road in search of the American Dream

By Junico Simino

Moses led his people through the desert, away from persecution, tyranny, and oppression, toward the “Promised Land.” Southie Lewis led his to Las Vegas.

“American Moses” by Stephen Witt is a tale of reinvention, courage, faith, love, and the pursuit of the American dream.

“Moses” tells the story of Southie Lewis and his family, who while living in fictional Port Decker, NY (based on Port Jervis, NY), encounter racism and persecution, all of which culminates when the town synagogue is burned down. Members of the town’s Jewish community then come together and decide, under the reluctant leadership of Southie, to leave Port Decker and head west toward Las Vegas. With high hopes, Southie and his family travel on a road that is filled with joy, self-reflection and heartbreak.

“When you live in a small town, you get a better idea of what America is about,” said Witt. “You deal with people on a day-to-day basis.”

Witt, who also happens to be a reporter for this newspaper, spent seven years writing “Moses,” his first novel. He claims the inspiration came from advice he had received about creative writing: “Write what you know.”

Indeed, “Moses” draws most of its influence from Witt’s own life. Much like the novel’s main character Southie, Witt has traveled all across America and the world, working various odd jobs from a baker in Boston to a grape picker in France to a concierge in Israel. Witt describes “Moses” as “an unconventional love story.”

“The characters are very flawed people. Southie is a hothead who acts before he thinks, but has leadership qualities. He’s clueless, while Zippy (his wife) is very conflicted. The story is intergenerational,” said Witt.

Witt self-published “Moses” using his own start-up publishing label “Never Sink Books,” which he launched in 2007. The imprint is just a small portion of his larger, full-service media company, Never Sink Media. Future projects include the novel “LowHearted” by D. Amanda James, which is set in Brooklyn.

Although originally from Chicago, Witt’s first break into the world of journalism was as a New York City subway musician. It was during this point that he began to write a first-person account of being a subway musician titled “The Street Singers Beat,” from 1987 until 1993.

His work later went on to be recognized by City Lore and Atlantic Records.He subsequently moved on to writing for a paper in Port Jervis. It was during this period that he encountered a lot of anti-Semitism, which was the starting point for “Moses.”

While earning his living as a reporter, Witt interprets creative writing as “very different than journalism. Journalism is a craft.”“[I’ve] always wanted to be a creative writer. Ever since I could remember,” he said.

Finally done with “Moses,” Witt is starting to work on his next novel, “The Street Singer,” a Christmas story about a New York City subway musician inspired by his own experiences.

A book launch party for “American Moses” will be held at Harry O’s located on 120 Lawrence St., August 14 at 7:30 p.m.. All are encouraged to attend.

To purchase a copy or to find out more about information about “American Moses,” log on to


Copyright © 2009 All rights reserved

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP