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A highly informative memoir that explores Poland and Ukraine; the book should appeal to those who revel in the poetry of...

An author recalls two academic sojourns to Eastern Europe as a visiting professor of English literature.

Before she and her parents moved to the United States in 1953, Colley (Wild Animal Skins in Victorian Britain, 2014, etc.) spent her first 13 years in a small town outside Manchester, England, where her father was a Unitarian minister. It was there in 1946 that she briefly met Dr. Novak, head of the Unitarian movement in Czechoslovakia. From that one encounter and contact with postwar Eastern European refugees passing through her town, she developed a fascination with their part of the world. In 1995, accompanied by her partner, Irving Massey, Colley arrived in Poland to begin her year as a senior Fulbright fellow, teaching English literature at the University of Warsaw: “Strands of communism as well as remnants of Soviet rule” were “unraveling and clumsily intertwining with the government’s increasing commitment to a Westernized economy.” In early 2000, she and Massey traveled to Ukraine, where she spent another Fulbright fellowship year teaching at the Taras Shevchenko University in Kiev. Still dependent on Russia and emotionally scarred by the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, Ukrainians were nonetheless optimistic about joining the West. This elegantly written memoir is an elaborate tapestry blending the countries’ troubled histories with the author’s in-depth observations of people, places, and customs. Colley’s keen eye for detail and her flair for the dramatic bring humor, texture, and context to pages filled with vivid imagery: “Waiting up in the trees,” gray-beaked ravens “fly down, floating, swooping, and dropping like abandoned cloth handkerchiefs conversing with the currents in the air.” Her prose displays a passion for the symphony of linguistic complexity, although sentences occasionally meander and twist along paths so long that the beginnings are forgotten by the time the ends arrive. The book, which features some photographs, is best enjoyed in intermittent doses. Still, the author depicts both her mental and physical wanderings viscerally enough for readers to feel like companions on the vibrant journey.

A highly informative memoir that explores Poland and Ukraine; the book should appeal to those who revel in the poetry of intricate prose.

Pub Date: May 22, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63152-343-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2018

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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

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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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