Cover image for Kasher in the rye : the true tale of a white boy from Oakland who became a drug addict, criminal, mental patient, and then turned 16
Kasher in the rye : the true tale of a white boy from Oakland who became a drug addict, criminal, mental patient, and then turned 16
1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Grand Central Pub., 2012.
Physical Description:
xiv, 300 p. : ill. ; 22 cm.
A rising comedian describes with humor the absurdity of his troubled youth in Oakland, California, where his mother walked him on a leash until he chewed through it and ran away and started taking drugs at age twelve.
Personal Subject:


Material Type
Shelf Number
Book 792.76028 KASHER 1

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Rising young comedian Moshe Kasher is lucky to be alive. He started using drugs when he was just 12. At that point, he had already been in psychoanlysis for 8 years. By the time he was 15, he had been in and out of several mental institutions, drifting from therapy to rehab to arrest get the picture. But KASHER IN THE RYE is not an "eye opener" to the horrors of addiction. It's a hilarious memoir about the absurdity of it all.

When he was a young boy, Kasher's mother took him on a vacation to the West Coast. Well it was more like an abduction. Only not officially. She stole them away from their father and they moved to Oakland , California. That's where the real fun begins, in the war zone of Oakland Public Schools. He was more than just out of control-his mother walked him around on a leash, which he chewed through and ran away.

Those early years read like part Augusten Burroughs, part David Sedaris, with a touch of Jim Carrol...but a lot more Jewish. In fact, Kasher later spends time in a Brooklyn Hasidic community. Then came addicition...

Brutally honest and laugh-out-loud funny, Kasher's first literary endeavor finds humor in even the most horrifying situations.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this memoir of high-octane intensity, L.A. standup comic Kasher takes "a drug-filled journey through the harrowing years of my youth." Insights abound as he wanders through the "creaky secret rooms" of memory, recalling the teen turmoil that followed his chaotic childhood where "Life was the wound." He begins with the separation of his deaf parents and his mother fleeing New York for the "murderfest" of Oakland, where vitriolic verbal sparring became his weapon in schoolyard conflicts: "I slowly started sharpening my tongue on the whetstone of Oakland Public Schools." At age 13, he began using LSD: "The bad part about mind-expanding drugs when you are 13 years old is that there isn't really much to expand upon." Images by Oakland muralist Ezra Li Eismont illustrate this troubled teen odyssey of friendships, fights, thefts, graffiti tagging, weed, rehab, therapy, and psychiatric lockdown: "One of the coolest things about being locked up in a mental hospital when you're 13 is... wait, I'm thinking." Although Kasher in print is not as funny as his hilarious standup routines, he writes with an imaginative flair and a razor-edge ferocity. (Mar. 28) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

A bleak memoir, played for laughs, of growing up poor, Jewish and drugged-out in Oakland, Calif. Los Angelesbased comedian Kasher encountered enough unusual early trauma to justify both his profession and his acerbic outlook. Both his mother and father were deaf; as a boy, his mother abruptly broke up the family to move to California ("Oakland in the mid-eighties was a very interesting place to be white"), leaving his embittered father to retreat into an ultra-orthodox sect. Like many misfits, Kasher realized early on that class clown provided a potent identity. As an adolescent he took to drug and alcohol abuse with a vengeance, moving quickly from marijuana to LSD to dealing and wannabe gangsterism. He is frank about the appeal of drug abuse to self-loathing, marginalized teenagers: "I walked around the world convinced that I had some private information that had been kept from the rest of the squares in the world." Kasher is equally honest about his callous treatment of his long-suffering mother and about his antagonistic trips through various rehab programs and special-needs schools. Yet his redemption arc is rather brisk; aware that any opportunity for a future was melting away, he ultimately decided at 16 to give up his atrocious habits on his own. "Why that day was any different, I don't know," he writes. "Something had died in me. My will had died. My childhood had died." Throughout the narrative, Kasher relies on exaggerations, asides to the reader, general crudity and broad ethnic humor rooted in the absurdity of a Jewish adolescent narrator-observer in racially tense Oakland. However, the author provides keen observations, capturing grim yet mordantly funny details about the everyday life of lower-income people living hard lives in decayed urban environments. Not likely to appeal to everyone, but irascibly charming in its honesty.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* In this funny but disturbing memoir, stand-up comedian Kasher recounts how he and his friends inhaled and stole their way through their teens. ( Thick as thieves we were. Wait, we were thieves. ) His parents who split up are both deaf. His mom, who raises him, is Jewish and on welfare. ( That's rare. Like seeing a unicorn, he says.) His hippieish mother means well but is out of her element as her 12-year-old son falls in with a crowd that guzzles Everclear margaritas and smokes pot. It's that feeling the numbing bliss of self-medication that makes people become drug addicts, he says. I never wanted not to be high again. Kasher spends his bar mitzvah money on phone sex; then, beginning at 13, he spends time at a mental institution, drug-treatment centers, and several different schools. Finally, at 16, he sobers up and becomes a good guy. This cautionary tale (in which names have been changed to protect the guilty and the innocent ) is a winner. Ideal for any family grappling with substance abuse, it manages to be hilarious, heartbreaking, and hope inducing.--Springen, Karen Copyright 2010 Booklist