Jerry Vis, Paterson Boy

Jerry Vis
Paterson Boy

My Family and Other Strangers
A Memoir in 28 Stories

Thursday, April 4, 7pm

Paterson Boy is a memoir told as a series of stories. Sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes ironic, and sometimes filled with heartache,
Paterson Boy takes you on a journey that will make you reflect on your own childhood with its many disparate pieces.
Collectively they are a rite-of-passage story with all the varied emotions that would suggest, minus the drama of war, incest, or physical abuse.


With a fresh, wise voice, Jerry Vis tells a marvelous story of the freedom of childhood, its loss, and search for the path back to oneself. It is also a tale of Paterson, NJ, as it starts to decline, of a neighborhood that is an entire world for an only child born into a blue-collar family just months before the start of WW II. It is a place of family-owned stores and horse-drawn vendor wagons, of aunts and uncles, grandparents, teachers, and friends. Jerry has an adoring mother who provides a decade of loving security and the freedom to explore his boyhood world on his own, and a remote father who comes in and out of focus in Jerry's life until he dramatically emerges center stage, along with a confusing mix of God, religion, and alcohol. At the same time, other family members scheme, lure, cajole, and bribe Jerry in an attempt to shape him into what each thinks he ought to be, and in an attempt to save him from his father. Influenced by those around him, Jerry must somehow learn to find a way to become himself.


Jerry Vis spent the earliest years of his life in Paterson, New Jersey, where he was born in 1939 into a blue-collar family struggling to overcome the lingering effects of the Great Depression. At that time Paterson, known as the "Silk City," was still a mill town making the fabrics needed by the garment district in New York City. Many of his relatives worked in those inhuman mills. It was a time of horse cart vendors, close knit neighbors, and childhood freedom before the limiting age of helicopter parenting. A story teller by natural inclination, at the age seventy he was presented with a laptop computer by his grown son Benjamin, who asked he write down the stories he'd been telling years. And so, with great reluctance, began a journey that created this work about a life that is both as ordinary and extraordinary as any American life. The first in his father's family to attend college, he has an MFA degree in fine art, has taught for many years in public school and college, and in the 1980's established a business as a researcher/restorationist of early American vernacular homes in the Hudson Valley. He is a painter and sculptor with shows in multiple galleries spanning forty-five years. Now widowed after fifty-three years of marriage, he divides his time between his three grown children, one as far away as Argentina and two as close as New York State. He is still painting, doing restoration work and is presently putting the final touches on his third book which reveals that he asked his future wife to marry him on their first date.
Event date: 
Thursday, April 4, 2019 - 7:00pm to 8:00pm
Event address: 
54 Fairfield St.
Watchung Plaza
Montclair, NJ 07042
Paterson Boy: My Family and Other Strangers: A Memoir in Twenty-Eight Stories Cover Image
$17.95
ISBN: 9781947856622
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Rare Bird Books, a Vireo Book - December 11th, 2018