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Jewish 8th Graders protest against colour discrimination


What it is to be a Jew
Philip Roth Writer
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What it is to be a Jew. I'll try to make sense out... out of it. What it is to be a Jew. What it is to be a Jew, it... it changes every decade or so. There... I was... I was a Jew as a kid. I was a Jew in college. I was a Jew in England. I was a Jew in Israel. I'm... am I a Jew when I'm at work here? I don't know. But I grew up in the '30s and '40s, I'm not very conscious of the '30s – I was a small child. In a decade when anti-Semitism was... was very much alive in America.  Unashamedly alive. There was bias and discrimination everywhere, in the hotels, in the medical schools, in the restaurants, in the big corporations. And I imbibed the communal sense of unfairness and injustice and... and fear, I suppose. I don't think I was ever afraid of violence, but it was a fearful thing to be considered such an alien by so many of the big institutions that ran American life, and so I... I imbibed this sense of injustice in... when I began to be a conscious being and... which would be in the early '40s.

And I was tremendously sensitive to prejudice... as were many of the kids around me. I wasn't alone in this.

The fame of the American writer Philip Roth (1933-2018) rested on the frank explorations of Jewish-American life he portrayed in his novels. There is a strong autobiographical element in much of what he wrote, alongside social commentary and political satire. Despite often polarising critics with his frequently explicit accounts of his male protagonists' sexual doings, Roth received a great many prestigious literary awards which include a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1997, and the 4th Man Booker International Prize in 2011.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Jew, childhood, anti-Semitism, injustice, bias, discrimination, prejudice

Duration: 2 minutes, 48 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2011

Date story went live: 18 March 2013