What seems to be unique about Gold's account is his political bent. Rather than softening or sentimentalizing his experiences, he picks at scabs and pulls back the curtain to reveal horrors to his readers. As a devoted socialist, he wants to expose the evils of unrestrained capitalism. What that means for him is, rather than denying anti-Semitic stereotypes, he revels in them. Gold he wants the reader to understand that they are the result, not of Jewish culture, but of the effects of American ghetto poverty upon the Jews of his neighborhood. Povery, he aruges, turns potential into corruption. His is a world in which people will do anything for a few pennies, often all that stands between them and starvation. On the other hand, his world is also populated by characters who remain strong despite their suffering: his mother, who would rather go hungry than see a stranger starve; the foolish store-owner, who loses her livelihood because she cannot stand to turn away the poor. There are also desperate prostitutes, rapacious pawn brokers, crooked businessmen, and dreamers and schemers of all sorts.
This book lacks the literary ambition of Henry Roth's "Call it Sleep" or the narrative power of Abraham Cahan's "Rise of David Levinsky" (in my opinion, the finest novel ever about the Jewish immigrant experience). This is a political tract, and sometimes its dogma is rather irritating, even offensive. Nevertheless, it is a significant and important document of early 20th-century Jewish culture, and deserves to be read.