Novel Shows How to Become a Man, Today

Published: August 2nd 2010
in Culture » Books

Larry Rodness
Today I Am A Man cover

After over 30 years of singing, Larry Rodness is making a change.


Rodness, whose name you might recognize from his performances along with his wife, Jodi, at weddings and Bar Mitzvahs in Toronto for many years, or from the annual musical event at the Jewish National Fund, was looking for something new to sink his teeth into. “A number of years ago I got interested in doing writing so I began writing for musical theatre, dinner theatre and that kind of stuff,” said Rodness in a conversation with Shalom Life. “And then I started working on screenplays and over the course of the years had about three of them optioned.”


His recently published novel, titled Today I Am A Man, hit the stores back in February and began in the form of a screenplay before Rodness re-wrote it as a novel about two and a half years ago. As its title suggests, the novel deals with issues that children face around the time of celebrating their Bar Mitzvahs. It begins with a 50-year-old man named Steven Goldman, who goes to a high school and beats up a 15 year-old boy. Following the incident he heads home, and while waiting to be arrested, the reasons for his actions come out during a series of flashbacks to his youth in Los Angeles during the 1960s.


“There are two storylines going on,” said Rodness. “In the first storyline you see [Steven Goldman] as he is at 50 years old. What he’s done, and I don’t want to necessarily give that away, is he’s gone to a school to beat up a kid who was bullying his son, and he does that because he has these memories of being bullied as a child. So the issue comes in two areas, from the kid who’s being bullied as a 12-year-old and then him growing up and approaching the situation as a father protecting his son.”


Rodness explained some of the issues faced by 13-year-olds that the novel deals with. These include assimilation into a new society, racism and bullying, sexual awakening, moral decisions, and more. The novel also deals with a moral decision that a father whose son is being bullied has to face: Is it right to beat up a 15-year-old boy or is it more right to protect your family? And, as Rodness explained, everything leads back to the title of the book, which is also the sentence that every 13-year-old boy says when he celebrates his Bar Mitzvah.


“Every kid states in his Bar Mitzvah ‘Today I am a man.' Now what does that mean?” said Rodness. “Essentially to me that means that at the age of 13, you become responsible for your own decisions. Your parents kind of relinquish that to you. So now this boy has a lot of decisions he has to make: Do I want to assimilate? Do I want to be friends with these new people down here at any cost? What do I have to do to assimilate? What kind of moral decisions do I have to make to either befriend or take a stand and say, ‘No, I’m not going to cross this line?’ So those are some of the issues that are involved and that’s kind of the reason for the title of the book.”


Rodness explained that the book is autobiographical in some ways, since he himself lived in California as a child, arriving there after the Kennedy assassination. “We stayed there for three years, to the point where things got so bad that we came back. And the story kind of outlines all the things that went on and the reasons for returning.”


Related articles: (Larry Rodness, Jewish novel, Today I Am A Man)
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