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Politically Homeless


An often charming memoir that intertwines personal and political histories.

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Terzian’s (The Immigrant’s Daughter, 2005) second memoir explores the author’s global quest for independence.

The author was born into an Armenian family in Cairo in the 1930s; her parents were refugees who had fled Turkey in the ’20s. Although the Egyptian capital—at that time—offered ethnic and religious freedom, Terzian was constrained by the misogyny of both her conservative father and the broader community. Her stepmother frequently told her that as a woman, she was “somebody else’s property.” But after getting an English-language education at a Catholic high school, Terzian was determined to become a professional, college-educated woman—not just a traditional Armenian housewife. Her foray into employment and self-sufficiency coincided with an increasingly nationalist climate in Egypt in which Armenians and other ethnic minorities were often denied employment. She explained to a European colleague that she was an Armenian, not an Arabic-speaking Egyptian, despite having been born in Egypt: “If I were a kitten and born in an oven would you call me bread?” she said. Terzian found autonomy—and escape—through a position with the United Nations’ World Health Organization. Her career in international aid eventually led her to an expatriate life in Leopoldville, Congo, and Lomé, Togo, as well as to travel around a rapidly de-colonizing Africa and Cold War–era Western and Eastern Europe. A trip to visit her brother in the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic illustrates the complex relationships of diaspora communities to their distant, mythologized homelands. Similarly, Terzian’s exploration of her expatriate status in Africa raises questions about what it means to have a home country—or even a home. The author does have a tendency to fall into the memoirist’s trap of over-documenting details of travel and work assignments, and the book might have made the same impact with a shorter page count. Still, the impact it does have is significant. Through her own story, Terzian articulates the ways in which patriarchy, culture, bureaucracy, and politics challenge but never fully derail an independent woman’s ambitions.

An often charming memoir that intertwines personal and political histories. 

Pub Date: June 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5049-1311-9

Page Count: 402

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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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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