Purchasing a historic Savannah home unlocks the sweeping story of a Southern Jewish family
As Jason K. Friedman renovated his flat in a grand 1875 town house in his hometown of Savannah, he discovered a portal to the past. Liberty Street takes the reader on Friedman's personal journey to understand the history of the family who built the home. At the center of the story is a sensitive young man pulled between love and duty, a close-knit family straining under moral and political conflicts, and a city coming into its own.
The Cohens, part of a Sephardic community in London, arrived in South Carolina (ca. 1750), seeking economic opportunity and personal freedoms. Becoming founding members of the Charleston Jewish community,they built home and community in the American South and rose from shopkeepers to success in business, politics, and high society in Savannah, one of the principal cities of the Confederacy. At the height of their success, the Cohens met tragedy, when their twenty-year-old golden boy, Gratz, was killed in battle wearing Rebel Grey, just weeks before the end of the Civil War.
Friedman draws on letters, diaries, and his experiences traveling from Georgia to Virginia to uncover these hidden histories and explore the ways place and collective memory haunt the present. At a moment when the hard light of truth shines on gauzy lost-cause myths, Liberty Street is a timely work of historical sleuthing.
Jason K. Friedman is author of the story collection Fire Year, which won the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction and the Anne and Robert Cowan Writers Award. He lives in San Francisco.