A peach of a book, and with a recipe for raisins in the bargain—worthy of placement alongside the best of Wendell Berry,...

A graceful meditation on the work of growing food and its meaning across generations.

Long before Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver turned to writing about food, Masumoto (Heirlooms: Letters from a Peach Farmer, 2007, etc.) was chronicling his work on an 80-acre farm of peaches, nectarines and grapes, as well as vineyards and gardens, in the Central Valley of California. For most of that time, he has used organic techniques. “Organic farming is not simple or easy, and the physical work breaks me,” he writes. “It’s easy to want to be environmentally responsible, but it’s a damned hard thing to achieve.” Farming has taken its toll on his father as well, whom he honors as a model and teacher (“Dad taught me the power of recognizing problems, analyzing them, and identifying new ways to go about things”)—to say nothing of a helping hand at many critical, even dangerous turns. To be a farmer and survive at it is, Masumoto reveals, to be many things: trend analyst and futures broker, repairman and mechanic, geologist and hydrologist. It is also to be a good neighbor, on which Masumoto affectionately recalls his Japanese-speaking grandfather visiting with Italian-speaking immigrant neighbors and somehow communicating enough to jointly concoct what the author calls “Muscat sake grappa.” Masumoto’s memoir demonstrates that there is no end to the work and the physical, and sometimes fiscal, punishment. Yet he closes, happily, with the prospect of his daughter becoming a farmer, too, working a tradition and a promise renewed “out of love,” even while surrounded by a culture that, he sharply notes, does not reward difference or recognize excellence.

A peach of a book, and with a recipe for raisins in the bargain—worthy of placement alongside the best of Wendell Berry, Liberty Hyde Bailey and other literary farmers.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4165-9930-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2009


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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