A well-illustrated but uneven account of an immigrant’s life in 20th-century America.

RUNNING THE RACE ONE DAY AT A TIME

A TESTIMONY OF FAITH

An Austrian immigrant recounts his intricate journey in this debut memoir.

Jeremenko, the son of Austrian refugee camp immigrants who came to America in 1951 when he was 6 years old, structures his book around a series of short vignettes drawn from his memories, supplemented with a lifetime of vivid photographs. The author’s parents were “displaced persons” who ended up as farm laborers in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The bulk of the beginning of Jeremenko’s memoir describes the “typical Americana” of his Midwest upbringing as a healthy, uproarious immigrant boy with a distant, hard-drinking father and a caring, competent mother who did all the housework, child rearing, and extensive gardening. The author grew up, got a job at the General Telephone Company, and then joined the Marine Corps. He shipped out to Vietnam, where he saw a good deal of action and lost some friends. Jeremenko recounts that this preyed on his mind even decades later (“I carry the guilt of all my team members that I lost when I was in Vietnam”). He returned to civilian life, and much of the rest of the volume consists of his accounts of growing older and having children and then grandchildren. In his heartfelt book, the author shares some intriguing details about his experiences in America and Vietnam. But his writing throughout is a bit bland, which is a drawback since the types of memories he’s relating are seldom inherently dramatic. He writes about the time his father chased local boys who were stealing fruit from the family’s garden, for instance, and about his childhood filled with rotary phones, record players, and black-and-white TVs. Unfortunately, his recollections rarely say anything striking about these things. And his frequent invocations of his passionate Christian faith can sometimes seem artificial: “Isn’t it amazing what a difference sixty-plus years makes in the planting of a small evergreen tree in our yard to remind me of Christmas year-round?” he asks at one point. “Thank you, Jesus!” The end result is a narrated family photo album—priceless to Jeremenko’s own loved ones and friends.

A well-illustrated but uneven account of an immigrant’s life in 20th-century America.

Pub Date: May 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-66320-137-9

Page Count: 190

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2020

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

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PERSIST

The Massachusetts senator and financial reformer recounts several of her good fights over the years.

Famous for being chided for “persisting” on the Senate floor, Warren is nearly a byword for the application of an unbending, if usually polite, feminism to the corridors of power. Though she has a schoolmarm-ish air—and indeed taught school for much of her life—she gladly owns up to liking a beer or two and enjoying a good brawl, and she’s a scrapper with a long memory. In 2008, when she shopped a proposal to found a federal agency that “could act as a watchdog to make sure that consumers weren’t getting cheated by financial institutions,” she encountered a congressman who “laughed in my face.” She doesn’t reveal his name, but you can bet he crosses the hall when she’s coming the other way. Warren does name other names, especially Donald Trump, who, with Republicans on the Hill, accomplished only one thing, namely “a $2 trillion tax cut that mostly benefited rich people.” Now that the Democrats are in power, the author reckons that the time is ripe to shake off the Trump debacle and build “a nation that works, not just for the rich and powerful but for everyone.” She identifies numerous areas that need immediate attention, from financial reform to bringing more women into the workplace and mandating equal pay for equal work. Warren premises some of these changes on increased taxes on the rich, happily citing a billionaire well known for insider trading, who complained of her, “This is the fucking American dream she is shitting on.” The author reverts to form: “Oh dear. Did I hit a nerve?” Warren’s common-sensical proposals on housing, infrastructure development, and civil rights merit attention, and her book makes for a sometimes-funny, sometimes–sharp-tongued pleasure.

A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-79924-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: today

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