Host of Memories


Lively, evocative autobiographical essays.

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Focusing Proust-like on the objects that embody memories, Lighte (Pieces of China, 2009) hosts a tour of his life, from an American Jewish upbringing to a career in China and London.

Lighte, a longtime Sinophile and J.P. Morgan banker, exploits both meanings of the title by taking on the role of solicitous tour guide—“As a hospitable host in this room, I will give a guided tour of its interior”—while curating his impressively detailed memories like precious artifacts. Lighte grew up in Florida but, after his parents’ divorce, moved with his mother to New York City. It was a family of feuds and sudden deaths, and his mother suffered periodic depressions. By contrast, Lighte was a clownish child who told off-color jokes and played the recorder with his nose. He was an aimless student until he took a college elective on the Far East, hoping for an education on the Vietnam War. This one happenstance determined much of his future: studying Chinese in Taiwan, teaching English in Tokyo, working in Beijing, connecting with his husband over A Night at the Chinese Opera, and adopting two Chinese daughters. In brief vignettes, some almost Proustian in their evocation of sense memories, Lighte remembers people and places that hold significance for him. For instance, in “The Gardenia Bush” and “The Lilac Quest,” a flower’s scent takes him back to the past. A whiff of gardenia perfume in China, and he’s in a friend’s Miami Beach yard, while the smell of lilacs reminds him of the desperate hunt for a floral gift for Aunt Marcy’s surprise party. Other objects are nearly as totemic—red plates purchased for Uncle David’s shiva, a last-minute passport obtained before a QE2 voyage with his father, or the store-bought cookies he took to AIDS patients in memory of a departed friend. His meetings with Pearl Buck and Nigel Nicolson are highlights and reinforce the subtitle’s delight in historical serendipity. Meanwhile, “Seder in Kensington” is the best example of Lighte bringing disparate elements of his life together.

Lively, evocative autobiographical essays.

Pub Date: May 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0991252978

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Acausal Books

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015


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

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