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The Fortune Teller's Kiss (American Lives) Paperback – February 1, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-0803243538 ISBN-10: 0803243537 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Series: American Lives
  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press; Reprint edition (February 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803243537
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803243538
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #672,036 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Poet Serotte relives a childhood cataclysm in this culture-rich, affecting memoir, part of the American Lives literary nonfiction series. In 1954 she contracted polio, mere months before Jonas Salk perfected his vaccine—a coincidence that struck her Sephardic Jewish household as especially cruel. In this lively subculture, a minority among even New York City's Jews, Serotte earned high praise for her beauty, grace and belly dancing, grooming herself for the proverbial sultan's harem. Old World mysticism imbued everyday life, adding color to a bleak immigrant aesthetic. The family matriarch, Nona Behora, was revered for her ability to read fortunes in Turkish coffee grounds; before her death, she divined misfortune for the author, her granddaughter. The family desperately spouted medieval benedictions to deflect the evil eye, but a prolonged, agonizing hospital stay forced Serotte to work her own miracles with "courage I pulled from somewhere." She explores the identity that confounds her: first, her "bouillabaisse" blood line and, later, the immobility that suspends her between "normal" and "special," as she limns her family with wry affection that doesn't blot out their flaws. The drama of Serotte's struggle to walk again, filtered through the tender emotion of youth, creates an aromatic narrative brew that reveals her destiny in riveting detail. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Serotte's memoir tells of her growing up in the Bronx in a Sephardic Jewish family among Ashkenazi neighbors. She writes of her Turkish-born relatives, their customs and rituals, and how she came down with polio shortly before her eighth birthday. "One day I was a wild child, running and free; the next, an invalid surrounded by weeping women." She tells of the High Holy Days in the Sephardic synagogue attended by the "marginally poor." There were candy-store owners, factory workers, shoe salesmen, and the occasional professional. Descriptions of her family members are what make this memoir a joy to read. All of Serotte's parents' differences were dissolved when they were dancing, and one of her grandmother's fortune-telling abilities enabled her to determine a person's future by reading grounds left in a cup of Turkish coffee. Much of The Fortune Teller's Kiss chronicles the author's recovery from polio. Serotte is a marvelous storyteller, and this book, one of the American Lives Series, is a profoundly moving memoir. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Brenda Serotte grew up in the Bronx, New York and was the youngest girl in a clan of Sephardic (Turkish) Jews. In 1954 she got polio, despite receiving the vaccine, and that ended her belly-dancing career, but only temporarily. Today, she is a poet and author, married, with grown children, and at work on a novel. She welcomes readers to visit her website, www.BrendaSerotte.com and say hello! The "Fortune Teller's Kiss" was a memoir labor of love in honor of her paternal grandmother, a well-known clairvoyant who once lived on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Customer Reviews

It did not explain how much of a disability the polio left the author with.
Bernard Meltzer
Some parts were well developed while others felt very disjointed and confusing, not unlike the author's childhood.
Dina Tanners
I was only disappointed when the book came to its end -- somehow, I wasn't ready for such an abrupt ending.
Linda Perlis

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Sally Constain on March 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This memoir is beautifully crafted. It took me back to another time and place, and it is still with me. The author presents us with a candid look at her fascinating relatives (She is from a Sephardic family with roots, traditions and superstitions carried forth from centuries in Turkey and Spain.) She shares the struggles and triumphs of her own childhood. I am recommending it to those of us who remember the importance of a skate key, and to younger readers, as well. It is a timeless treat that continues to ring true.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Cora Diamond on January 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Fortune Teller's Kiss is both funny and sad because it is a true story of Brenda Serotte's Turkish life when she got polio as a little girl in the 1950's in The Bronx. It is inspiring and makes you grateful for how far modern medicine has come so that our children are safe from this disease. The book is easy to read and I bought a few copies for my Temple Library and my Rabbi.

She will have a sequel next year because of the very favorable readership.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Haley's Comments on August 5, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
I purchased this book at a reading by Ms. Serotte. I'm not much of a memoir person, but this one is not a typical story at all, and it held my interest throughout. The book is very visual and kudos to the author for never feeling sorry for herself - and she certainly had reason to. Although I've known Sephardic Jews, I never knew that much about their history - especially anyone with a Turkish background. The book is educational and entertaining; I enjoyed it immensely.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By South Florida Amazon Fan on May 18, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read a brief blurb for this book in a magazine and downloaded a kindle sample. I read all of 2 pages and immediately purchased it (unlike many samples that forever go unread and are never purchased). I loved this book. My early years were spent in the Bronx, and the book triggered many memories and provided insights, details, and more than a few laughs. However,when the book turned to the author's polio this became so much more than a nostalgic memoir of time and place. It's an amazing story of a young girl faced with tremendous adversity, who finds her way through it. It doesn't matter where you grew up, or what religion you are, this book is a wonderfully written story that will stay with you after you finish it. It would be a great choice for a book club as well!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Marilyn Cohen on July 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book tells the story of a Sephardic Jewish girl (the family is from Turkey) living in the U.S. The young girl contracts polio shortly before the polio vaccine is developed. Her life is portrayed in heartwarming and charming anecdotes and vignettes. The book is upbeat because the main character is full of life. I recommend this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Carol D. Nastasi on October 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Since visiting Ellis Island's Museum, I have been collecting adult and children's books about the trials and tribulations that my ancestors had to endure, at Ellis Island. This book is a great addition to those books!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Marvin B Rosenthal on May 10, 2013
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The author succeeds in telling the story of a young, troubled girl and her exotic family. I wish she would have concentrated more on the family. They were interesting enough for their own book. She handled her illness very well and with humor which kept it from getting maudlin. Her interactions with her mother, father, and brother were especially interesting.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Happy Mom on December 11, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A lovely view of Sephardi Jewish life through the eyes of a Turkish family as it moves from the homeland to the "new world."
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