An eye-opening look at a fascinating era in Israeli history and what happens when a child is part of a sociopolitical...

One woman’s remembrances of youth in the kibbutz.

Neeman was born in 1960 in Kibbutz Yehiam, a particularly vulnerable and nonarable piece of land when it was first settled in the 1940s. The author describes not only her own experiences of growing up in kibbutz culture, but also the violent and activist story behind the concept. In a socialist and humanist experiment quite removed from any religious connection to Judaism, the founders of the kibbutz were dedicated to communal living, which included the group-rearing of all children. Neeman, like all of her peers, only saw her parents for just under two hours per day. The rest of the time they lived in tiny communal groups—the author’s was called the Narcissus Group—which did everything together, from sleeping to showering, without regard for gender or individuality. While many of her early memories are bucolic and whimsical, there is a continual contrast to the utter violence into which the kibbutz was born and the threat under which it still lived throughout Neeman’s childhood. Located near the Lebanese border, Kibbutz Yehiam spent much of 1948 warding off sieges by the Arab Liberation Army, while a lack of food and water were also constant threats. Later, only through backbreaking labor was the land reclaimed from its original rocky character, allowing crops of bananas and other foods. Neeman left the kibbutz at age 12 to enter a collective educational institution, another twist in her story. Though the author is stoic in her attitude toward her youth, it is clear that the experiment in collective education left the children with great emotional and social gaps. Her narrative leaves an impression that she is still struggling to understand how this unusual upbringing shaped and affected her.

An eye-opening look at a fascinating era in Israeli history and what happens when a child is part of a sociopolitical experiment.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4683-1356-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: Sept. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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

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