A sympathetic portrait of Mexican-American feminism (both in mother and daughter) delivered in a poignant, beautifully...

A queer Latina feminist focuses on her ferocious, survivor mother from Tijuana.

In her moving portrait, Moraga (English/Univ. of California, Santa Barbara; A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness: Writings, 2000-2010, 2011, etc.), the founder of Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, examines her close but tortured relationship with her now-deceased mother. Elvira Isabel Moraga, who came of age in Tijuana’s golden era in the 1920s, “was not the stuff of literature.” The daughter of an “illusive trickster who shuttle[d] between worlds” and “rode the counterfeit borders of the Southwest with a vaquero flare of Mexican independence and macho bravado,” Elvira and her numerous siblings, born on the American side of the border, were hired out by their father for menial labor, essentially limiting her education (“her inability to read and write well remained an open wound”). As a teenager, Elvira secured work until the mid-1930s as a hat-check–and-cigarette girl at a high-stakes gambling room in Tijuana, eluding the advances of the casino's predatory owner. Ultimately, she met and married a man named Joseph, a “functionary” who operated the South Pasadena Santa Fe Railroad station. Together, they and their children moved east of Los Angeles, embracing the suburban dream that characterized much of post–World War II America. Born in 1952, author Moraga offers mesmerizing details of growing up there and in San Gabriel, a mixed-race community, near her grandmother, who served as the locus of myriad visits by relatives. Coming to terms with her sexuality during a progressive social era almost derailed the author’s relationship with her strict, volatile mother, but in the end, her mother assured her, “how could you think that there is anything in this life you could do that you wouldn’t be my daughter?” The author’s determination to learn Spanish and visit Mexico helped the two bond in her mother’s later years, which were marked by Alzheimer’s.

A sympathetic portrait of Mexican-American feminism (both in mother and daughter) delivered in a poignant, beautifully written way.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-374-21966-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019


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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