As Michael maneuvers through his working-class neighborhood delivering groceries, he enters the homes and lives of his customers. He’s confronted by the school yard and street corner violence of local thugs. With the 1967 Arab-Israeli War fresh in public memory, he passes for Greek or Italian and never summons the courage to explain, exactly, who he is or where his parents came from.
Michael weighs his obligations to his tight knit family and sees before him a life of constricted ambitions. Then he falls for a radical college coed, returned to the neighborhood after two years of college. She teaches Michael about sex, love, the obligation to protest injustice. His life is buffeted by the killing of Martin Luther King, Jr and the death, two months later, of Bobby Kennedy. His girlfriend opens his eyes to the ongoing national struggle to test national ideals against the growing diversity of America.
Michael grieves with a mother whose only son died in the Vietnam War and is embraced by the first black couple who move into the neighborhood. The people he meets shape him. His mind is a potpourri of his experiences: hatred, kindness, his own sexual awakening. Michael struggles to figure out who this dutiful son of an immigrant family is becoming in a rapidly emerging modern world, epitomized by the big, brash, obnoxious city on the other side of the East River.