The Magic of Organizing?

The Inquisitor's Apprentice book coverThe Inquisitor’s Apprentice
by Chris Moriarty
Harcourt Children’s Books, 2011

Any Tikkun readers delighted by Harry Potter will enjoy picking up this book. If you have ever idly wished someone would conjure up a tale for kids that would impart a Potter-esque magical glow to progressive politics and Jewish culture, and maybe even New York, then take note. This book succeeds at two out of those three.

Adult sci-fi author Chris Moriarty has given us a cross between Potter and E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime. In her early 1900s New York City, Sacha, a thirteen-year-old Jewish immigrant boy, has to battle magical forces wielded by robber barons. Can his grandfather, the rabbi from the old country and an expert on everything kabbalistic, including dybbuks, help? Will his unwelcome sidekick, Lily, daughter of the über-wealthy high-society Astral family, be of any use? Why has Inspector Wolf, a mysterious NYPD Inquisitor, hired him and Lily as apprentices in his epic battle with James Pierpont Morgaunt for the soul of the city? Will the evil genius who is trying to kill Thomas Edison manage to blame it all on the Jewish kid and start a pogrom right here in the new world? Can the good guys who don’t wield magic, including Houdini and Teddy Roosevelt, have any impact? And why is Emma Goldman absent from this novel?

In Harry Potter, the wizarding world and the world of Muggles—the ordinary, boring, unmagical people—are at first kept separate, barely impacting one another. Author J.K. Rowling’s portrayal of the Muggles so captures the contempt that typical bohemians, Beats, hippies, Deadheads, and such have had for the stodgy bourgeoisie that I always took her magical folk to be an extrapolation of the counterculture.


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David Belden, D.Phil (Oxford), has been a religious worker, agnostic countercultural collectivist, novelist, carpenter, college teacher, business writer, and managing editor of Tikkun (until this April). He is currently writing about and studying restorative justice.

Source Citation

Belden, David. The Magic of Organizing. Tikkun28(1): 56.

tags: Books, Judaism, Reviews   
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