Kirkus Reviews QR Code


Traveling the Diaspora from Cuba to India to Tahiti & Beyond

by Ben G. Frank

Pub Date: Oct. 18th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7627-7033-5
Publisher: Globe Pequot

Travel-guide scribe Frank (A Travel Guide to the Jewish Caribbean and South America, 2004, etc.) describes his experience in visiting "little-known Jewish enclaves in the most unusual places" in an effort to "meet my people and learn how they lived and survived.”

The communities visited include Russia, the Caribbean, Asia, North Africa, Cuba and Israel. Some, like Vietnam, are made up of only a few expatriates, while others, like those in Russia, are returning to vitality after decades of repression. The author shows his guidebook-writing background, including plenty of street addresses of sites and other information useful to travelers. The author also includes plenty of non-Jewish–related facts. Frank often digresses into historical, political and literary references, as well as personal memories connected to his destinations. The narrative has a genial, meandering style, though it lacks the grace of the finest travel writing. While the author relates some fascinating stories of the people he encounters, the somewhat matter-of-fact presentation fails to truly convey their personalities and emotions or get to the heart of what it's like to live as a Jew in Myanmar or Tahiti. Nevertheless, there is something to be learned here for anyone seeking insight into the current state of the Jewish diaspora, or a basic knowledge of Jewish life in the various places visited by the author. Though Frank's depictions of his travels are not quite top-notch fare, his obvious knowledge and passion for the subject may inspire readers to follow in his footsteps.

Worthwhile as a travel guide to exotic Jewish areas, though less successful as a compelling narrative.