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The Proud and the Immortal by Oswald Rivera

  • Pub. Date: October 2003
  • 368pp (Paperback Edition)

The Overview:

They were immortal; they would always be here.

“The tunnels were wet, but kept their bodies dry. Cramped, yet offering reach; dangerous, yet safe, and, most important of all, it gave solace. Not only their hunger, but also their solitude could be contained. To some it was a last chance to affirm the only possession they had: themselves. To others, it was just a place to settle, and to be.” The Proud and the Immortal , Oswald Rivera.

This classic novel takes us into the real world of a homeless community living in disused Amtrak train tunnels under the city of New York. Oswald Rivera’s realism depicts the plight of the homeless and how they are caught in a battle they never intended to have to fight. The novel shows how they are misconceived by the public and by themselves, and just how much they are the same as you or I. With warmth and humor Rivera’s story shares important insights into a problem that is all of ours and that needs to be solved. The heroism in this one small, diverse community of “the Moles,” under circumstances of extreme pressure, is an inspiration in all walks of life.

This underground city was the domicile of numerous homeless individuals who settled within a series of abandoned Amtrak tunnels spanning 41 blocks of Riverside Park. This was a self-enclosed community that thrived and became a microcosm of the larger environment above the streets. This settlement is no more. The abandoned rail lines were once more appropriated by the Amtrak system. What happened to these individuals, no one knows. But while the settlement existed, it gave rise to a mini-community within the community, with its own rules and laws of conduct. Not many people knew about this underground colony, who called themselves “the Moles.” Yet their story must be told and is now recounted in all its stark detail. In essence, this is a story of a group who clung together because they had nothing else. It is a story of a family.


Editorial Reviews:

The Eagle – John Dunn classic. Every library should have a copy!
The Maine Times – James Curtis

Rivera proves that the great American novel can be written in our times. With compelling insight the reader is brought underground to live in disused Amtrak tunnels with a family community existing on the edge day by day. Meanwhile millions are being made literally above their heads. I couldn’t put it down.

The Somerset Gazette
– Tom Jamesport

It reads like The Grapes of Wrath! It’s a wake-up call for society to do something about the homeless.
The Chronicle – Gerald Holmes

Rivera takes you so deeply into the world of the homeless you feel that you are part of the community he describes with such compassion.

From the Publisher

About The Author:

Oswald Rivera is a Marine combat veteran of Vietnam where he was awarded the Purple Heart and other honors. This phase of his life gave rise to his first novel, Fire and Rain: A Novel of Vietnam, which Publishers Weekly declared, “a searing, authentic… quietly powerful story.” Later, Rivera served as a staff analyst for the New York City Police Department. It was during this period that he discovered a makeshift city under the city.

In addition to his novels, pursuing a lifelong culinary passion, Rivera has written two cookbooks: Puerto Rican Cuisine in America: Nuyorican and Bodega Recipes, (“An elegant feast.” -New York Daily News) and now out, The Pharaoh’s Feast, a history of cuisine. He lives in New York City.

Forewords & Introductions:

We will require educational tools by which every person, despite class, race or gender, will come to an equitable and informed understanding of the systems in which we are a part. Oswald Rivera’s book is indispensable as one of these resources. Simply put, Mr. Rivera sheds humanistic light on the homeless condition. The Proud and the Immortal is a stepping stone on a path towards the education of our country on the crisis of homelessness. His book is the voice for a culture of real people in real need. Rivera has written an informative and honest novel that depicts the fundamental realities of the vulnerability to the outer world, strength from the inner world, and the constant courage that encompasses the lives of the downtrodden and homeless.

For the homeless individual the challenge of rising out of poverty and homelessness is a lengthy, complex and arduous process. In our research of statistics we have found that in no state does a full-time minimum-wage job cover the costs of a one-bedroom unit at Fair Market Rent. In addition to this, it is also known that families make up 78 percent of New York City’s homeless shelter population. More than one in four children in the city currently lives in poverty, a typical homeless child being under the age of five. It is easy to see that in many cases, and especially for children or other unemployable persons, even the imminent solutions offered by state and traditional social service programs are temporary and inadequate. Other proposed solutions for long-term prevention of homelessness and hunger often do not manifest due to lack of funding and support. Though over 38,000 homeless individuals in New York City use the city’s shelter system each day, and thousands more hungry people receive their daily meals from soup kitchens and food pantries, every day these establishments collectively turn away over 2,500 people.

In a country built and based on doctrines of prosperity, freedom and equality, the realities of homelessness may be a bitter pill to swallow for the politically powerful. However, the hard truth remains that homeless people are, by majority, unable to enjoy or even experience the fundamental American freedoms of speech, religion, freedom from fear, and freedom from want.

(All statistics from: The National Coalition for the Homeless, updated May 2003; New York Times, 2002; Hunger Action Network of New York State, 1999; New York City Coalition Against Hunger, 1998.)