The story of a black Russian's life in pre-glasnost Russia, and of her quest to discover and connect with her American and African roots. Khanga is the third generation of her family to live in Russia. Her African-American grandfather and Warsaw-born Jewish grandmother left the US in the 1930's to help build a new Soviet Union. After Khanga's mother—a biracial child—was born, they decided to remain in exile rather than raise the girl in what they saw as an intolerant America. Khanga's mother married an African (later to become the first vice-president of Zanzibar) but remained in the Soviet Union to raise the author. Here, Khanga's powerful voice explains the difficulty of developing a self-image in a country where the predominate images are of blue eyes and blond hair; where knowledge of her cultural heritage was sustained only through dialogue with her mother; and where the fact of her American and Jewish ancestry had to be suppressed in order to ensure the welfare of herself and her family. Chronicling three generations of racial and ethnic pride, Khanga turns a critical eye toward racism, feminism, Communism, and democracy, and examines these ideas and institutions as they relate to her experiences in the US and abroad. She speculates that being a member of an unthreatening minority in the Soviet Union is a quite different experience from being raised in the US, where sheer numbers alone would give one a different perspective—but in her view, neither Russia nor the US is a land of milk and honey. Winning a Rockefeller fellowship enabled Khanga to travel to America and Africa in search of her cultural roots. As a result, she learned family secrets, reconciled herself to her multicultural past, and began to develop a new racial consciousness. Insightful, poignant, and rife with honest revelations. (Photographs—32 pp.—not seen.)

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 1992

ISBN: 0-393-03404-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1992


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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