Sure, the main victims of prejudice are those who feel the lash of its injustice. But, stresses Leo Rozmaryn, those preconceived negative views also have “corrosive effects” on the very people who hold them.
The horrific results of those biases are one of the central themes of his recently published novel, “Lone Soldier.”
“The prejudice in the book hits you on a gut level,” says Rozmaryn, 64, a Silver Spring orthopedic surgeon. “That’s the strength of the book. I basically punch the reader in the stomach.”
He adds: “The book is one way I felt I could raise consciousness about this problem.”
Arik Meir, the protagonist of “Lone Soldier,” set in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, fought prejudice but was its victim as well.
The son of a poor, disabled Israeli soldier, the California-raised Arik rescued a young black man from a beating at the hands of a neo-Nazi, saving his life. Arik, a tremendous athlete, played with and more than held his own against the best black street basketball players in the Watts section of Los Angeles. More to the point, he made many friends in that community
An Orthodox Jew, Arik falls in love with the daughter of the Israeli ambassador to the United States. But her family rejects him because he is poor.
He makes aliyah and joins the Israel Defense Forces’ most elite fighting unit. But he and his beloved become spiritually, as well as physically, separated.
In the IDF, Arik meets some now-famous Israelis, including Yoni and Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak. After overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Arik becomes an Israeli hero himself and a role model.
The ideas for the book have been “floating around in my head for many years,” Rozmaryn says.
About five years ago, characters — hybrids of people he had met when he had attended high school and yeshivah in Israel in the early 1970s — began showing up in his head and telling him stories, the he says. He wrote them down, as well as stories they told him during recurring flashes of imagination that came to him periodically during the next several months.
After he produced 20 story “snippets,” Rozmaryn hired a developmental editor and later a copy editor to help him produce the book, which clocks in at 586 pages.
Failing to find a publisher, Rozmaryn turned to an Amazon company and self-published it.
His novel deals with two important subjects he says are largely ignored by other novelists — the Modern Orthodox Jewish community and Israel between the Six-Day and Yom Kippur wars.
Although he had lived in Israel for a short time, Rozmaryn realized that to write an authentic novel, he would need to supplement his experiences with a great deal of research. To that end, he read extensively about Israel in general and subjects that come up in the book in particular.
He also called on some of the “amazing people” he cares for in his practice. His patients include former members of the Army Rangers and Navy Seals, an American Cup sailor, a man with 40 years of experience in martial arts and an African American whose son had played basketball growing up in south-central Los Angeles. Rozmaryn spent hours speaking to each of them.
Rozmaryn has sold 120 copies so far and is pleased with the feedback he has gotten. He has some thoughts about a second book, but those ideas “are not mature enough to share at this time,” he says.
Aaron Leibel’s novel, “Generations: The Story of a Jewish Family,” is available at amazon.com and in Kindle format.