Edwin Rolfe was born Solomon Fishman to a working-class immigrant family in Philadelphia and was significantly influenced by his Jewish-Russian parents. Bertha and Nathan Fishman, both committed socialists and labor organizers, taught young Solomon to take up responsibility to correct the institutional injustice faced by the underprivileged. The Fishmans moved to New York in 1915, where Solomon attended New Utrecht High School and met Leo Hurwitz, later a pioneer in left-wing documentary filmmaking. Hurwitz, then the editor for the school magazine, was the young man’s first mentor in writing. Soloman began using the pen name Edwin Rolfe in the 1920’s, and by the 1930’s, he had become Edwin Rolfe.
Rolfe’s passion for writing developed into a career goal after he joined the Young Communist League in 1925 and Mike Gold’s Youth’s Literary Workshop in 1926. Between 1926 and 1929, he wrote poems, short stories, and reviews for Saturday Review and Daily Worker, but to support himself, he also had to work as a restaurant dishwasher, a shoe store assistant, a subway construction worker, and a punch press operator. Financial struggles and the necessity to keep marginal jobs marked the rest of his writing career.
Dissatisfied with the rigid loyalty demanded by the Communist Party, he enrolled, with a scholarship, in the Experimental College at the University of Wisconsin in fall, 1929; however, his commitment to socialism...
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