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Growing Up in My Immigrant Family

by Marisabina Russo ; illustrated by Marisabina Russo

Pub Date: Oct. 12th, 2021
ISBN: 978-0-374-30383-9
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

This memoir introduces Russo as the quiet daughter of an absent Catholic father and a Jewish mother who survived wartime atrocities and converted to Catholicism.

Raised in an opinionated, Yiddish-speaking 1950s matriarchy, Russo is enticed by the teachings of her parochial school. So enticed, in fact, that she has decided to become a nun. Horrified, her mother informs Russo she is now attending public school. The episodic story leisurely follows Russo’s life in New York City as she discovers a love of visual art, endures emotional shake-ups and family dramas, and, piece by piece, begins to put together what her family endured during World War II. Notably, clichés of intergenerational trauma are sidestepped: Holocaust and wartime survivors aren’t walking tragedies but fully human, everyday people with foibles as well as pain. Russo grows up both admiring and resenting her relatives—in particular, her courageous, frustrating, mercurial mother—but finds through them lessons she integrates into her sense of self at the intersection of multiple worlds: Jewish and Catholic, fully American and part of an immigrant culture. While the book meanders, and Russo sometimes becomes lost among the more vibrant personalities around her, the meticulous, detailed art is a highlight, striking the perfect tone for the quirky character of the world it portrays and rewarding repeated readings to catch every detail. Main characters are Ashkenazi.

Affectionately celebrates Jewish American experiences.

(epilogue, photo gallery) (Graphic memoir. 12-18)