When We Argued All Night

Alice Mattison's new novel, When We Argued All Night, was published by Harper Perennial on June 12, 2012. Placing imaginary people in real situations, When We Argued All Night asks how people manage to be friends, how they endure the people they love, and how any of us can make sense of history.

In 1930, Artie Saltzman and Harold Abramovitz, Jewish young men from Brooklyn, attend a Communist rally in Union Square. Artie hopes to photograph it; Harold is curious. A riot breaks out and the police smash Artie’s camera and many people’s heads. Through decades of experiences that are sometimes startling now, sometimes all too familiar, Artie and Harold and their families live their lives.

Harold reads news stories about the Nazis’ treatment of the Jews, and is horrified when he finds himself using the stories to get the attention of women. He joins the Communist Party in the thirties; in the fifties, his and Artie’s jobs as New York City schoolteachers are threatened because of their past lefty connections. In the years of the Vietnam war, Artie’s daughter Brenda struggles with her own insecurities as well as anti-war feeling. When Harold is an old man, a book he writes has a surprising fate involving a rising politician, Barack Obama. What endures are friendship, family, and love. When We Argued All Night presents in telling detail characters who are sometimes tragic and sometimes comic, but always both lovable and flawed—that is, human.