From Publishers Weekly
In Proustian fashion, this memoir begins with a flood of memories triggered by a seeded roll, a staple of Manhattan bakeries that was an early childhood treat for the author, who, along with his parents and brother, was a Polish-Jewish refugee living on New York's Upper West Side in the 1940s. From the smell and taste of fresh-baked bread, Berger, deputy education editor at the New York Times and author of The Young Scientists, tumbles headfirst into a tale about survival in a new country that was dangerous and mysterious as much as it was a haven of safety. Written in simple, elegant prose, the book largely focuses on Berger's parents' lives (particularly before the war). His father, whose Yiddish gave the family vital access to the city's Jewish community even though the author viewed it as "the mark of a conversational cripple," is a quiet man who could be moved to violence when necessary to protect his family. His mother conveys to her children the complex tapestry of their European heritage. Both come alive in this vivid narrative, softened by a reflective somberness that is only occasionally tinged by nostalgia. Berger frequently interrupts his own story with shorter anecdotes in the voices of his parents, who tell stories about their families and their childhoods that both enhance and illuminate the primary story. By conjuring a complexly interwoven familial history that takes the reader across the boundaries of time, Berger lays the foundation for his thoughts about the larger immigrant experience. Agent, Joel Fishman.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
In this gripping and beautifully written memoir, New York Times reporter Berger tells the story of his family, Polish Jews and Holocaust survivors, who migrated to New York City in 1950. Having been born in Russia in 1944 and arriving in the United States at the impressionable age of five, Berger recounts with humor and pathos the tale of his own coming of age, with his parents' reminiscences as backdrop. The story of such refugees, about 140,000 of whom came to the United States between 1947 and 1953, remains a little-known aspect of Holocaust history. Berger's account is painful at times, as he recalls his own struggle to belong as both he and his parents fought to "shoehorn" their way into American life in the 1950s and early 1960s. His childhood remembrances of simple pleasures like Sunday visits to the bakery, the pleasure of new school supplies housed in cigar boxes, and the proud excitement of the arrival of the neighborhood's first TV set will bring smiles to the faces of general readers. Most touching is the celebration of family, community, and continuity so prized by these survivors. Highly recommended.
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- Marie Marmo Mullaney, Caldwell Coll., NJ
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.