A memoir that effectively conjures the world of an immigrant but offers pat answers to complex problems.

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A SOUL DIVIDED

MEMOIR OF A MODERN EMIGRANT

Kartheiser’s (Laptopiada, 2016, etc.) memoir offers a portrait of the Georgian-American immigrant experience in its story of a single mother who comes to the United States.

The book opens in 2004 with the then-34-year-old author frantically getting into a taxi and ordering the driver to tear through the streets of Tbilisi, Georgia. She had just two hours to locate her sons and get their passport photos taken before a 1 p.m. appointment at the United States consulate to secure visas. She was barely eking out a living in her native country and desperate to find a way out. Her book offers a tableau of the day-to-day headaches and upsets that she encountered on her quest for financial security and personal fulfillment. She provides recollections of Communist rule in Georgia, tales of the old country before it, and reflections on the country’s long, complicated history that outsiders rarely hear. The author traveled back and forth between Georgia and the United States, staying and working in America for six-month periods, separated from her family back home. She worked as a babysitter and housekeeper, which made her feel as if she was losing her identity. Still, she stayed positive: “When life gives you challenges, you have no choice—you have to fight.” At times, it seems as if Kartheiser is trying to find the most painless way to conjure the idea of an immigrant’s divided soul; for instance, she refrains from stirring up too many negative emotions—fear, rage, remorse, envy, despair. She also glosses over potentially volatile scenes that a more experienced writer wouldn’t, such as a recollection of the September morning that she turned on the television to see smoke overtaking a skyscraper. This relatively quiet 9/11 scene had great dramatic potential, but the author offers a facile conclusion: “For me, [9/11] is the worst experience of my American journey. The beacon of hope...has been attacked, in an attempt to destroy that hope. But...the people of the United States only become more caring of each other, and more patriotic to their nation.”

A memoir that effectively conjures the world of an immigrant but offers pat answers to complex problems.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5484-8328-9

Page Count: 204

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2018

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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