A forthright and sensitive tale of a daughter’s quest.

A young woman crosses a cultural divide in search of her past.

In her debut memoir, Fajardo (The Dish on Food and Farming in Colonial America, 2017, etc.) recounts her emotional journey, at age 21, to find the father she had not seen since she was a young child. Born in Colombia, the author grew up in Minnesota; her American mother told her that her father, Renzo, loved his native country so much that he did not want to leave. The truth, Fajardo learned, was much more complicated, as were her feelings for the stranger with gray-flecked black hair and mustache, smelling of cigarette smoke and soap, who greeted her, accompanied by his young wife, when she landed in Colombia. Their reunion was awkward despite each being able to speak the other’s language. Fajardo wanted not only to know Renzo, but to understand why her mother could not live with him—in short, “the complicated truth of these two people who brought me into the world, the events that had aligned to create the life I was living.” She discovered more than her parents’ apparent incompatibility. Her father was “overly emotional and fiercely closed off,” she writes, “and my mother reacts to everyone’s mood, switching back and forth between bliss and despair.” Her mother felt alienated and isolated in Colombia, and Renzo felt the same when they returned to Minneapolis. Those differences proved unbridgeable, but there were other problems, as well, including her father’s infidelity and, for the author, a shocking revelation. Fajardo strains to make connections between the events of her life and Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. When it was published in the 1960s, she writes, “magical realism was part of the landscape, not a literary genre.” However, this story, marked by disillusion, yearning, sadness, and one happy coincidence, does not draw upon or evoke magical realism; nor does Fajardo need García Márquez to justify or bolster her memoir.

A forthright and sensitive tale of a daughter’s quest.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5179-0686-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Univ. of Minnesota

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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