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American Gypsy: A Memoir Paperback – July 3, 2012
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“Engaging . . . Marafioti describes with humor and introspection how the self-described ‘Split Nationality Disorder' she experienced growing up only magnified upon her family's emigration from the former Soviet Union to Los Angeles when she was 15 . . . Marafioti's probing observation of the contrast of American individualism with fierce Roma ethnocentrism, even xenophobia, yields a provocative exploration of identity. Contrasting cultural values shine in this winning contemporary immigrant account of assimilation versus individuation.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Touching . . . Funny . . . A rich, colorful story about a long misunderstood culture.” ―Publishers Weekly
“A most entertaining, informative and worthwhile read . . . American Gypsy is warm and funny--often very funny--and, always, is a revelation.” ―Ellen Stirling, Living Las Vegas
“Beyond the usual stereotypes of thieves in caravans, this drama of finding a home at last strikes universal chords, not least with the hilarious family theatrics and the contemporary immigrant mess-ups . . . [A] wry, unforgettable memoir.” ―Booklist
“American Gypsy is a fun, humorous and sometimes heartbreaking memoir of a teenage Russian immigrant . . . [A] spirited and touching coming-of-age tale.” ―Cindi Moon Reed, Vegas Seven
“[Oksana Marafioti's] witty, often hilarious account of her new life (not quite what MTV had promised) takes us for a ride through an immigrant's world, presenting the challenges of reconciling boyfriends, fast food, and séances with her family's strict Roma traditions.” ―Annasue McCleave Wilson, Biographile
“An illuminating and unvarnished peek into a much-misunderstood culture, one that's been plagued for centuries by discrimination and worse. That said, while American Gypsy documents some dark and troubling events, it offers just as many funny and heartwarming moments.” ―Geoff Schumacher, Las Vegas CityLife
“Oksana Marafioti's American Gypsy stands apart . . . A rare firsthand glimpse into the reality of contemporary Romani life.” ―Ian Hancock, director of the Program of Romani Studies, the University of Texas at Austin
About the Author
Oksana Marafioti moved from the Soviet Union when she was fifteen years old. Trained as a classical pianist, she has also worked as a cinematographer.
More About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
Reviewed by C. J. Singh (Berkeley, California)
Oksana Marafioti's coming-of-age memoir succeeds brilliantly at several levels: First of all, it's a gripping read; it shows the marginalized situation of the Romani people in Eastern Europe as experienced by insiders; it shows the lasting contributions of the Gypsy people to European popular music and dance; it shows an immigrant family's struggle to survive in the U.S. of the 1990's; and it presents glimpses of the Gypsy people's journey from India to Europe that began more than a thousand years ago.
To begin with, the term "Gypsy" refers to an ethnicity that originated from the Punjab region of northwest India. The term "Gypsy" is regarded as pejorative by the people it refers to; they prefer to call themselves Romani or Sinti. (So why is the title not American Romani? Publisher's marketing decision? )
Marafioti's memoir nicely complements three well-known books about the Romani people: Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and Their Journey by Isabel Fonseca, a journalist who lived with Romani families in Eastern Europe for five years; All Change!: Romani Studies Through Romani Eyes, edited by Damian Le Bas and Thomas Act; and We Are the Romani People by Ian Hancock, himself of British Romani descent, and professor of Linguistics at the University of Texas, Austin, and widely regarded as the leading scholar of Romani Studies.Read more ›
Unlike so many other memoirs, this book is not about placing blame on others, boasting of one's accomplishments, or wallowing in self-pity. With the brilliantly executed purity of a professional documentary, these pages reveal life as an emigrant from the Soviet Union, an uncertain young woman, and a Roma from the perspective of the author.
Oksana Marafioti's raw honesty is both refreshing and heart wrenching at the same time. In this book, American Gypsy, she shares her strongest memories and deepest emotions without ever asking for pity, sympathy, approval, or even understanding from the reader. If you've ever wondered what it would be like to be a fly on the inside of someone else's life - this book will give you that experience and what you take from it will be entirely your own as Oksana makes no attempt to sway you - and that's a good thing!
I absolutely loved this book and no matter how badly I might have needed to at times (when sleep beckoned at 1 a.m., for example) I simply couldn't put it down. I devoured every word; frequently reminding myself that I was reading a reality that someone had actually lived and wanting, with all my heart, for Oksana to have a happy ending while fearing that, because this is reality, she may not. I couldn't wait to get to the final page and yet I never wanted it to end. This is a beautifully crafted work of literary art and will receive a place of respect and admiration on my shelf.
When I met Oksana at a memoir conference I learned about her upcoming book, and was eager to read it. I confessed to her that I knew little of gypsies except that they had been rounded up in WWII and executed, and that many people worldwide hated them--then and now. Prejudice is still endured by the Roma, but I didn't expect to experience it at the book reading I attended.
As soon as Oksana began to tell her own story interwoven with historical and cultural information, some people in the back of the room interrupted with prejudicial remarks that at first Oksana deftly turned into more informational discussion, but eventually the people took over the reading, continuing to spew shocking statements of prejudice against the Roma, and the author. They were from Eastern Europe and had brought their biases with them.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I really enjoyed this book because it introduced me to a culture I never knew. I would recommend this to my daughter.Published 11 days ago by Amazon Customer
This was such an interesting story, I didn't want it to end. Thank you Oksana for sharing your story, once I started reading the book I didn't want to put it down. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Sherrie Woods
Oksana shares her coming-of-age story across cultures - Roma, Russian, Armenian, and American - and changing socio-economic status - affluent, lower middle class, and poor. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Babz
She is a young author writing in a second language.......a few more years experience in writing will improve her writing.....Published 12 months ago by Laura Rice
Excellent account of a young girl's adjustment to life in the US amid a chaotic family steeped in gypsy culturePublished 13 months ago by nEIL tEICHER
Very awkward to read. Prose was choppy a d paragraphs did not flow together well. The best part was the exorcism described in detail, nice.Published 14 months ago by Hilo Farm Gal
Oxsana Marafioti’s story of immigrating with her gypsy family to America from Russia at 15 is compelling as well as enlightening. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Carolyn V. Hamilton
I had this book for my book club. It is amazing that people can come to this country and continue mostly with their cultures from where ever. Read morePublished 16 months ago by MJF/Utah