Linked essays cohere into a tender, moving memoir.

An Arab Jew searches for the meaning of home.

From the time her father died when she was 10, Tsabari (The Best Place on Earth: Stories, 2016) felt out of place in Israel, where she and her family had long lived in a community of Yemeni Jews. “Grief shakes the foundations of your home,” she writes in her candid, affecting memoir, “unsettles and banishes you.” In addition to the loss of her father—whom the author evokes in loving detail—she felt excluded from Israeli culture, where Arab Jews were treated like second-class citizens, even those, like her and her parents, who were born in Israel. “In a country riddled with cultural prejudice,” she writes, “the stereotypes associated with Yemenis over the years have ranged from romanticizing to fetishizing to patronizing.” In 1935, when her grandparents arrived, Yemeni immigrants were considered “savage and primitive”; even today, “Yemenis are often the butt of racial jokes and the subject of mockery.” As in her impressive collection of short stories, which won the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, Tsabari examines the cultural and personal forces that result in alienation and “self-inflicted exile.” For nearly a decade after completing mandatory service in the Israeli army, she traveled to Canada, New York, Mexico, India, and Thailand, with few possessions. “Home, essentially, was the act of leaving,” she writes, “not a physical place, but the pattern of walking away from it.” She married, briefly; had affairs; spent years drinking cheap whiskey and smoking dope; and periodically returned to her family home before leaving once more. “Leaving is the only thing I know how to do,” she reflects. “That seemed to be the one stable thing in my life, the ritual of picking up, throwing out or giving away the little I have, packing up and taking off.” It must be lonely, a friend remarks, “needing to be free all the time.” Now in her 40s, grounded by her husband and daughter, she redefines home: an emotional commitment to a place “where love resides.”

Linked essays cohere into a tender, moving memoir.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8898-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018


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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