An unusually creative memoir of a bicultural life.



An “ordinary girl” rebels against her unstable life in Puerto Rico and Miami Beach until military service helps her gain a life-altering self-confidence.

Growing up in housing projects in Puerto Rico, Díaz (editor: 15 Views of Miami, 2014) tossed aside the blonde-haired Barbie dolls her elders gave her. “They always made me feel ugly, the brown kid who would never look like her white mother,” she writes in her inventive debut memoir. It didn’t help that her philandering father sold drugs, her mother showed alarming signs of her soon-to-be-diagnosed schizophrenia, and only her loving grandmother provided a stable presence in her life and those of her two siblings. Hoping for better, her father moved the family to Miami Beach when Díaz was in elementary school. But the money ran out, and the family was evicted repeatedly from shabby apartments. As “a closeted queer girl in a homophobic place,” the author couldn’t adjust, kept getting arrested, and ended up in Narcotics Anonymous and a juvenile detention center. Depressed and desperate to end the free fall, she dropped out of high school at 16, married at 17, and made a life-changing move at 18, enlisting in the U.S. Navy. As she aced military tests, her faith in herself grew and led eventually to a graduate degree and a literary career that has earned her two Pushcart Prizes. Using flashbacks, shifts in tense, and other novelistic devices, Díaz weaves impressionistic vignettes about Puerto Rican history and culture into her story, which begins when she watches an activist’s funeral procession in Puerto Rico in 1985 and ends after a recent visit to the island in the wake of Hurricane María. Along the way, she withholds key dates and other facts that would have made it easier to put some events in context. However, the literary bells and whistles give her story a broader interest than many memoirs that are more solipsistic. This book isn’t just about the author’s quest for self-determination; it’s also about Puerto Rico’s.

An unusually creative memoir of a bicultural life.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61620-913-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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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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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

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