A fine introduction to a writer who deserves to be better known to English-language readers.

Proust meets magical realism in this searching, lyrical memoir by the Mexican poet and conservationist.

“I am still alive in a fresh wound,” wrote fellow poet Octavio Paz. Aridjis (An Angel Speaks: Selected Poems, 2015, etc.) counts his own birth as a poet in a wound suffered when he was 10 years old, when a shotgun he was aiming at passing birds misfired: “Invaded by ammunition, engulfed in the smell of gunpowder, my blood hot and my right hand bleeding," he writes, "I wasn’t aware of my state until I tried to take a step and a feeling of being torn apart kept me from moving.” In this soft-spoken account, the accident transforms Aridjis from boisterous lad to a bookish solitary who turns to poetry. It would not be a modernist Latin American literary work without at least a moment reminiscent of García Márquez, and there are many here, as when a suitor rejected by his aunt takes up the habit of sitting in the town square holding a protective umbrella, “though the sky was clear.” Aridjis’ mother is central to the story, from the moment of birth through his traumatized childhood, and she could not have asked for a more affectionate portrait: “To remember her was to have her always in my own past, in the memory of my being, united, inseparably, to my self.” We also see the growing importance of the natural world in the author’s life and work: the sight of a drop of water sliding off a leaf is enough to distinguish the wounded boy from ordinary people. “I was moved by things that did not interest them,” he recalls. Readers wish only that Aridjis revealed more of his process of writing, for the passages of poetry among the prose are lovely incantations: “I / made my poem / and I recited it trembling.”

A fine introduction to a writer who deserves to be better known to English-language readers.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-914671-40-4

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Archipelago

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015


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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