Relentlessly honest and perceptive, but also loving toward an emotionally frail parent.

Noted gay-studies scholar Faderman (To Believe in Women, 1999, etc.) crafts one of those rare autobiographies that conscientiously detail the temptations of destructive behavior while also celebrating the resilience of the human spirit.

Indeed, this is a classic tale of the child of an immigrant who gets to live the American dream that eluded her mother. Faderman was born in the Bronx in 1940, the only child of an unwed Polish immigrant who came to the Bronx with her sister Rae in 1923. Her father refused to marry her mother or acknowledge Lillian as his daughter, and Faderman soon accepted responsibility for her adored Mommy, woefully unprepared for either a career or maternity and subject to bouts of incapacitating depression, especially after she learned all her relatives had been killed in the Holocaust. Their only solace came from regular moviegoing, and after they joined Rae in Los Angeles in the late ’40s, Lillian decided that she would become a star and rescue her mother from a terrible job and unhappy life. Though she felt betrayed when Mommy married a nice (though odd) Jewish man who worked in a pathology lab, it lightened her burden; Faderman took acting classes and to make money began posing as a teenager for girlie magazines, though she was already cruising women at gay bars. Tempted to drop out of school, she was rescued by a marvelous counselor who pointed out the benefits of education. Though there would be some rough moments—an encounter with a tough lesbian pimp, a brief marriage to an alcoholic gay man, and work as a stripper to pay for her college fees—Faderman was essentially on the road to a distinguished teaching career, a lasting relationship with another female academic, and motherhood (by artificial insemination).

Relentlessly honest and perceptive, but also loving toward an emotionally frail parent.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2003

ISBN: 0-618-12875-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2002



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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