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A mordantly affecting chronicle of a journey to discover that “you can’t have a future if you don’t have a past.”

An ex–Iron Curtain refugee–turned–American citizen tells the emotional story of how he and his parents fled the Ukraine two years before the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Golinkin was 11 years old when he and his family went into exile. They were among thousands of other Jews seeking political asylum and an end to the anti-Semitism that they and their ancestors before them had been forced to endure. The family was secular; however, that fact did nothing to protect them from harassment and social oppression. The trauma ran so deep that Golinkin developed a severe case of self-hatred that haunted him into adulthood. The family’s path away from the Soviet Union took them to Vienna, where two American Jewish aid organizations assisted them and other refugees in beginning the long process toward finding homes in Israel and the West. The family encountered an Austrian baron named Peter. Driven by anguish over his father's Nazi past, Peter helped get Golinkin’s father a temporary job to rebuild lost work credentials and prepare him for future gainful employment rather than a life condemned to “delivering pizzas and driving taxis.” Eventually, the family settled in West Lafayette, Indiana, where Golinkin’s sister was accepted into the Purdue graduate engineering program even though she, like her father, had been stripped of all credentials. Meanwhile, the author rejected every aspect of his former life, including his faith and language, and chose to go to a Roman Catholic college in Boston. Yet ironically, it was in this most un-Jewish of settings where he would begin the process of breaking through years of accumulated anger, pain and rage and accepting himself as a Jew. While the narrative becomes increasingly fractured near the end of the book, Golinkin still manages to impact readers with the force of his unflinching honesty.

A mordantly affecting chronicle of a journey to discover that “you can’t have a future if you don’t have a past.”

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-53777-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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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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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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