SAVAGE FEAST

THREE GENERATIONS, TWO CONTINENTS, AND A DINNER TABLE (A MEMOIR WITH RECIPES)

A graceful memoir recounting a family’s stories with candor and sensitivity.

Food from the old country nourishes the spirits of refugees.

At the age of 9, journalist and novelist Fishman (Creative Writing/Princeton Univ.; Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo, 2016, etc.) immigrated to the United States from Soviet Belarus with his parents and grandparents via Vienna and Rome. In each city, they underwent an examination of documents, health, and suitability to enter the U.S. The process was protracted and tense, and some families were turned away. But after making an emotional case for their oppression, they were approved, and on Thanksgiving Day, 1988, they landed in New York to begin the challenging transformation of becoming Americans. Central to Fishman’s insightful, absorbing memoir is hunger: “the trauma-derived mother-hunger that won’t give you a moment to wonder if you’re really hungry underneath all that worry.” The trauma of cultural loss, shared by many immigrants, was assuaged by his grandfather’s home health aide, whose recipes for potato latkes, stuffed cabbage, braised rabbit, liver pie, and scores more make the memoir a succulent treat. Besides hunger, the family harbored an overwhelming fear of risk and deep-seated pessimism. When Fishman’s mother went to a therapist, distraught at her son’s reckless decision to move to Mexico, the therapist, bemused, asked, “what if it goes well?” His mother was stunned: “Something as obvious as things turning out okay even if someone split from the pack had never occurred to her.” Although their innate sense of doom made his family seem “medieval and maimed,” he, too, was dogged by a pervasive feeling of sorrow and disorientation that led him to bruising romantic relationships and emerged as full-blown depression. “I used to think,” he writes, “that if I could just persuade them that risk brought reward, that things turned out okay now and then, I could be myself without confusing or hurting them. But their losses and shocks reached so far,” he concedes, “I couldn’t save them.” With great effort (and therapy and antidepressants), he managed to save himself.

A graceful memoir recounting a family’s stories with candor and sensitivity.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-286789-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

NIGHT

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

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

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

Close Quickview