Retired teacher Ted Mieszczanski is telling his story of his upbringing in the Bronx after coming to the borough as a refugee from Germany.
Growing Up BX, Tevye’s Story is a fictional account, according to Mieszczanski.
But, the book touches on factual events from Mieszczanski’s life and the hardships he faced as a kid growing up in the south Bronx in the 1950s.
“The problems don’t really change,” said Mieszczanski, who is now 71 and lives in Riverdale.
“The basic problems like being bullied, feeling lonely, being made fun of because you’re different, made fun of because you’re interested in things other people are not interested in, made fun of because you look different haven’t changed,” he said.
“I wanted to write something that would show kids that there is a way to survive and that way is to find good friends and those friends can be people that don’t necessarily have to look like you and they don’t even have to be people.”
Mieszczanski, who practices Judaism, said growing up, some of his best friends were the books at the New York Public Library.
In the book, Mieszczanski introduces another character, Wilson ‘Sweets’ Short, the friend he made who also faces similar problems. Wilson’s character is based on two friends Mieszczanski had growing up.
The characters in Growing Up BX, Wilson, who is black, and Mieszczanski, who is referred to as Tevye in the book, helped each other through the difficulties of being different.
“Friendship, racism and how different ethnic groups need to understand each other,” Mieszczanski said of the themes found in the book. “Anti-intellectualism is a big part because in my experience sometimes if you strive, others make fun of you because they’re jealous or they see that as a betrayal of what they consider the ethic they live by.”
“Most of the ‘isms’ we’re dealing with now are in that book.”
Mieszczanski initially finished writing Growing Up BX in 2005, but had not published it until this November.
Over the course of those 12 years Mieszczanski wrote and published another book called Star Crossed, which is actually part one of Growing Up BX, along with a few other works which he plans to publish in the coming year.
Growing Up BX is part three of his planned book trilogy, with part two still remaining unwritten.
The non traditional sequence of his book releases were the result of personal difficulty that came with writing Star Crossed, which discussed his parent’s story of escaping a concentration camp during the Holocaust.
Growing Up BX was written because of Mieszczanski’s testament to helping children like the ones he taught for about 40 years at P.S. 11 and C.E.S. 126, though children are not his only target audience.
“There’s lessons there for adults also,” said Mieszczanski. “We have to be kinder to one another, that’s the answer to everything. But sometimes we don’t understand it. We don’t see it, but if we were a little kinder to one another a lot of the problems would disappear, a lot of unhappy people out there would be better.”
Growing Up BX can be purchased on Amazon.
The next book Mieszczanski plans to release, 37 Cents and a Song, is unrelated to this series and is expected to be released in the new year.