Writing in Adolfo’s voice gives this suspenseful narrative candor and immediacy.

A brilliant forger’s 29-year resistance against oppression.

When she was 24, Kaminsky proposed to her 78-year-old father, Adolfo Kaminsky, that she write the story of his life as a forger of documents that saved thousands of lives, beginning with French Jews under Nazi occupation and continuing to include Algerians, anti-Franco activists, and others who fought against “inequality, segregation, racism, injustice, fascism and dictatorships.” He agreed but had one question: “do you know if there’s a statute of limitation?” In her engrossing literary debut, Kaminsky chronicles Adolfo’s career, which began when he was 17, a self-taught chemist who had gained incomparable technical knowledge from working as a dyer. Forged papers saved his own life and those of his father and siblings after they were released from the Drancy concentration camp, and soon he joined the Resistance, proving himself tireless, talented, and inventive. Once his expertise became known, he and a clandestine team were overwhelmed with orders for passports, identity papers, “travel permits, rent receipts, library card, sales slip for a store, bus or cinema ticket, railway ticket,” drug prescriptions, and even crumpled personal letters: in short, “everything a man might carry with him and which, should he be caught, might save his life.” After the war, he worked for a secret network to transport concentration camp survivors to Palestine, and later his forgeries aided freedom fighters in Algeria, Greece, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and across Latin America. Throughout his career, Kaminsky refused to accept payment for his work, believing that taking money would be mercenary: “I’d make working for nothing an absolute principle, for it alone guaranteed my total independence of the networks and kept my commitment incorruptible.” He gave up forgery only when he knew his cover had been blown, requiring him “to vanish into thin air.”

Writing in Adolfo’s voice gives this suspenseful narrative candor and immediacy.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9970034-0-6

Page Count: 230

Publisher: DoppelHouse Press

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016


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

Close Quickview