AMERICAN GYPSY

A MEMOIR

In this engaging immigrant memoir, first-time author Marafioti, née Kopylenko, describes with humor and introspection how the self-described “Split Nationality Disorder” she experienced growing up only magnified upon her family’s emigration from the former Soviet Union to Los Angeles when she was 15.

Born into a Moscow-based Roma family, the author spent the first 15 years of her life seeing Siberia, Mongolia and the former Soviet Union with her parents, who performed in a traveling Roma ensemble “the size of a circus.” Even as a child, Marafioti became acutely aware of racism both within her own family, as she witnessed the difficulty her Armenian mother faced gaining acceptance from her Russian paternal grandmother, and in school, as her Roma heritage was cruelly outed by a classmate sticking a sign to her back that read “Gyp.” Though well-off in their native Moscow, Marafioti’s family—especially her father, a gifted guitarist and composer—looked to the United States as a land of even greater opportunity, where their Romani roots would not carry the Gypsy stigma. One of the more humorous scenes involves the family’s green card interview, where the U.S. consular officer’s limited Russian led her to question Marafioti’s mother on her drinking (which she was notorious for), when she meant singing (one letter difference in Russian), her father babbling on about wishing to play with B.B. King and heal people with his bare hands. Soon after the family arrived in California, the author’s parents divorced, leaving her to cope with a broken home and dramatic change in finances, alongside the more typical immigrant difficulties of adapting to a foreign language and culture. As she recounts her love, loss and academic achievement experienced while “attending the same school that Cher once did,” Marafioti’s probing observation of the contrast of American individualism with fierce Roma ethnocentrism, even xenophobia, yields a provocative exploration of identity. Contrasting cultural values shine in this winning contemporary immigrant account of assimilation versus individuation.  

 

Pub Date: July 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-374-10407-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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