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American Gypsy: A Memoir Paperback – July 3, 2012

4.4 out of 5 stars 64 customer reviews

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$13.60 FREE Shipping on orders with at least $25 of books. Temporarily out of stock. Order now and we'll deliver when available. We'll e-mail you with an estimated delivery date as soon as we have more information. Your account will only be charged when we ship the item. Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.
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Editorial Reviews

Review

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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: FSG Originals; First Edition edition (July 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374104077
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374104078
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #491,796 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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Reviewed by C. J. Singh (Berkeley, California)
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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.
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Format: Paperback
I pre-ordered this book through a local retailer and, lucky for me, they delivered it to me before the release date. I devoured it in less than 24 hours but had to wait until after the release date to post my review for it here on Amazon.

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.

~WaAr
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
[...]

This is a Soviet immigrant memoir with a twist– the author is half-Romani. The daughter of traveling professional musicians, she studies piano, is bullied at her Moscow school for her heritage, and hopes things will get better when her family moves to America. Right after a more-serious-than-usual teenage heartbreak– her boyfriend, who had traveled to Romania to fight for Romani rights, is murdered– her family finally gets the chance to move. Almost immediately on arrival, however, her parents split up, with her Armenian mom descending into alcoholism and her Romani father marrying a much younger woman and diving into the occult.

However, Oksana embraces the opportunities of her new country, learning English through romance novels and attending a performing arts magnet school. When she falls in love with a non-Romani boy, tensions with her father build to an unsustainable level.

This is a very funny memoir, with her stepmother’s occult antics providing much of the humor. One night, she forces Oksana to help her steal graveyard dirt for a spell, and they get stopped for speeding. The officer doesn’t believe them when they tell him the suspicious bag in the car is dirt!

There are the usual immigrant tensions between tradition and the new culture. Oksana’s stepmother is eager to marry her off, and her father views her as insufficiently free-spirited when she gets into the performing arts school (which he equates with the Soviet arts system), believing that she should learn from her family instead. The problem is that he doesn’t take her seriously enough as a musician to teach her, because she’s a girl. However, Oksana finds a balance between rebelling against sexist traditions and valuing her cultures.
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