An often gripping account of a tempestuous half-century.

Through the Eyes of an Immigrant

A refugee from the Soviet Union settles in the United States and hustles to make a life there in this memoir.

In 1949, after fleeing Ukraine and attending a university in Germany, Konstantin (A Red Boyhood—Growing Up Under Stalin, 2008) landed in Boston. He had only $22 to his name, warily hidden in the lining of his pants, and the support of his sponsor, the New York Association for New Americans. It wasn’t easy for him to find work as a mechanical engineer, so he barely made ends meet by leapfrogging from one menial job to another. He finally found more promising employment in Ohio and was eventually able, in 1969 at the age of 40, to start his own business with his brother, Bill. Along the way, he fell in love with a woman named Rosaria Puccio, and they married and had children. The author negotiated their religious differences—he’s decidedly secular and she was raised Catholic—with the help of the Ethical Culture Society, a humanist philosophical group that emphasizes the shared moral ground of the world’s major theologies. Konstantin, an avid reader and lifelong student, later earned a master’s degree from Columbia University in industrial management. In this book, he constantly situates his own personal experience in the context of geopolitical affairs, which largely meant the dramatic unfolding of the Cold War. He also includes astute discussions of American politics, never shying away from analysis of major political figures, such as presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, or watershed events, such as the Bay of Pigs and Watergate. One recurrent theme is his exasperation with Western credulity: “I was still haunted by the question of why so many Americans and European intellectuals…still believed the Soviet propaganda.” This is the second installment of the author’s memoirs, and as in many autobiographies, there’s plenty of space devoted to quotidian affairs—the details of vacations, personal financial matters, and the like. These discussions will largely interest those who know the author personally, particularly his family members. However, his discussions of communism’s unraveling, and of its intellectual attraction to Westerners, provide a stirring testimony of real, though sometimes-ignored, global atrocities. It establishes Konstantin as an extraordinary moral witness who faithfully recorded depredations that man visited upon his fellow man in the name of ideology.

An often gripping account of a tempestuous half-century.

Pub Date: April 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-944785-03-1

Page Count: -

Publisher: Konstantin Memoirs

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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