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A reflective investigation of the self, memory, and invention.

Selgin (Confessions of a Left-Handed Man: An Artist's Memoir, 2011, etc.) explores his relationships with two men who “had a profound influence” on him.

As a twin, the author “had to share everything” with his brother, from birthdays and appearance to the love of their parents. They were also competitors and rivals. In this memoir, Selgin examines how their relationship combined with the influence of his father and his eighth-grade teacher to shape his own identity. The author’s brother was “the person he looked up to more than…anyone else,” his father was an iconoclastic inventor of electronic devices, and his English teacher was someone for whom he developed a long-lasting adolescent crush. Only after the deaths of his father and his teacher did Selgin discover that both had hidden key parts of their lives. At his father's funeral, he was stunned to be asked, “did you know your father was Jewish?” Later, quite by accident, Selgin discovered an obituary of his teacher and was astonished to learn of his Native American background. Family members told the author they either knew or suspected the truth about his father, and the teacher had taught him about art, music, and his dream of a place called “Castalia,” “a special community where scholars, teachers, artists, people who still know how to think and dream, would come together.” Through his writing and other artistic pursuits, Selgin began to share that dream. After his death, the teacher's dream had been brought to life in the form of an American Indian longhouse, while the uses of some of his father’s electronic inventions caused him to reinvent his past. “It was strange,” writes Selgin, “that the two men who had meant so much to you…both felt the need to break with their pasts and reinvent themselves.” Though they buried their own pasts, their influences helped the author invent himself, and thrive, through his search for his own Castalia.

A reflective investigation of the self, memory, and invention.

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9893604-7-0

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Hawthorne Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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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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