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



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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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A self-aware confessional from a successful and controversial musician.


The Grammy-winning Irish singer/songwriter looks back on her eventful life.

Promising candor and clarity, O’Connor (b. 1966) opens with a caveat that her story only details lucid periods of her life when she was psychologically “present.” Omitting hazy years in which she drifted off “somewhere else inside myself”—material some readers may wish she included—the author shares pivotal milestones (raising four children) and entertaining anecdotes. O’Connor vividly recalls an abusive Catholic childhood in Dublin with a cruel, unstable mother. As a rebellious teenager, she was sent to a reform asylum, where her love for music became the ultimate refuge, leading to band gigs and eventually a record deal in London in 1985. The Lion and the Cobra achieved gold status, and O’Connor describes the development of her persona: shaved head, baggy clothing, and stormy, antagonistic, always forthright demeanor. The author addresses her mental health challenges and experimentation with sex and drugs (“In the locked ward where they put you if you’re suicidal, there’s more class A drugs than in Shane MacGowan’s dressing room”) as well as two iconic moments in her career: her smash-hit cover of the Prince-penned “Nothing Compares 2 U” and her notorious performance on Saturday Night Live in 1992, when she ripped up a photo of Pope John Paul II. “A lot of people say or think that tearing up the pope’s photo derailed my career. That’s not how I feel about it,” she writes. Rather, it allowed her to return to her roots as a live performer instead of remaining on the pop-star trajectory (“you have to be a good girl for that”). In cathartic sections, O’Connor considers the era leading up to that appearance as a personal death, with the years following a kind of “rebirth.” Though she touches on her agoraphobia and later psychological issues, with which many of her fans will be familiar, the final third of the memoir sputters somewhat, growing less revelatory than earlier passages.

A self-aware confessional from a successful and controversial musician.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-42388-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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