An incisive, amusing, and thoroughly engrossing account of working in a former Soviet republic.



A Peace Corps volunteer spends two years teaching English in Moldova in this debut memoir.

When Weiss first arrived in Riscani, a city in northern Moldova, the outlook appeared bleak. Emerging from an alley of vodka bars packed tight with track-suited afternoon drinkers, he eyeballed his first major landmark: “the ruined brick skeleton of an asylum burned down by an angry mob some years back.” The second landmark he saw was a statue of Lenin. Despite having gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Moldova still displayed its ties to that nation. Weiss took up residence with a Moldovan family and began teaching English at the Russian School, made infamous by its reputation for “undisciplined children.” At first, lessons were impossible. Weiss’ students preferred talking among themselves, mocking him, or leaving the classroom without permission. On one occasion, pupils started a fire causing the school to be evacuated; on another, a boy brought a pistol to class. In time, Weiss began to acclimatize. As a teacher, he made a minor breakthrough when a student asked him to translate a pop song into English, albeit rather embarrassingly the lyrics to Tom Jones’ “Sex Bomb.” On the street, the author discovered that he would be treated as less of an outsider if he snacked on sunflower seeds as he walked. This is an inspiring memoir about forging cross-cultural bonds against daunting odds. The country that Weiss lived in was, in many ways, mysterious to him. But through tenacity, patience, and the help of the locals, he slowly found his way. Weiss’ writing displays an understated, world-weary wit. He deftly describes Teacher’s Day, a Russian tradition, when students recite poems, dance, and serve shots of vodka and cognac to honor their instructors. Recounting the following day, Weiss remembers he was nursing a hangover and wryly confides: “I stayed out of the teachers’ room because we were expected to finish the leftover cognac during the breaks between classes.” More could have been said about Moldova’s Soviet past and how it shaped its present—surprisingly, the word “communism” is used just once in the entire book (and “communist” only three times). But the author’s two years in Moldova are a delight to follow and could prove inspiring to anyone hoping to discover other cultures as a Peace Corps volunteer.

An incisive, amusing, and thoroughly engrossing account of working in a former Soviet republic.

Pub Date: June 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-925536-50-8

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Everytime Press

Review Posted Online: July 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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