“The Boxer’s Story,” an autobiography by Nathan Shapow with sports writer Bob Harris, is really three stories. The first, Shapow’s unbelievable story of survival during the Holocaust, is important both as a story of survival and as a testament to the atrocities of Nazi Germany. It is also a unique and often unheard story about Jewish survival in Latvia.
The second story is Shapow’s immigration to then British Mandate of Palestine and his participation in the struggle to create the state of Israel.
The third is the story of a family of Holocaust survivors and immigrants in the United States navigating a tumultuous 1960s America in pursuit of the American dream.
All three are important, yet none of them are told very well.
The book seems to be written as if spoken and therefore lacks linear coherence. Information is often repeated, and long passages pontificate historical background that anyone familiar with history either already knows or can easily discover. “The Boxer’s Story” lacks authenticity.
Shapow writes: “In the wars for Israel’s creation and protection, I did things that may sound
inhuman or worse,” but we never find out what those things were.
The Holocaust survival story is the most realized, detailed section, but it suffers from the aforementioned hindrances. Because the book crams nearly 50 years of Shapow’s life into 246 pages (including a chapter by his wife and an afterword by his son), it ends up deficient.