A densely packed memoir written by a tag team of twins.
Debut memoirists Joe and John Gindele were born in 1944 in the Yorkville section of Manhattan, where they lived through high school. Their parents were immigrants, father from southern Germany, mother from Czechoslovakia. Eventually, they were a family of seven—four boys and baby sister Mary Ann—living in railroad flats in old brownstone tenements where not having to share a bathroom with neighbors was a big deal. But the Gindeles were hardworking and thrifty, ethics they passed on to the kids; one thinks of the cliché that they never realized they were poor. Readers get a panorama of city life in those days—games they played (almost always out in the street), jobs the kids hustled, good times at their summer getaway on a farm in Connecticut—while meeting neighbors and following the boys through scrapes literal and figurative. Slowly, the Gindeles moved upward, finally buying a car, a ’51 Chevy. Always there was the immigrant’s drumbeat: education, education, education. After high school, the boys headed west to Minnesota, where they had family connections, and there they remained, now retired from teaching, with matching doctorates—the American dream come true. But for one year in college, the Gindele twins have been living together the whole time, now for over 70 years. The writing here, while adequate, isn’t terribly graceful, and the tone is chatty and sincere: “Dad thought you had to yell into the telephone for it to work. So he did. It took some time to convince him that he only needed to speak in a normal voice.” The book is chock full of family photographs, grainy but more authentic for it. And the twins prove to be avid researchers: footnotes abound, and there are appendices in the back, including one for further reading and one reflecting on what it is like to be twins.
Narrow appeal, but nevertheless an endearing look at two inseparable lives.