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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.
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Such a good book. The author does an amazing job shifting from present to past that you don't even know if happened. Read morePublished 4 months ago by M. Purcell
I have always been interested in Gypsies and this is memoir is written by an amazing new writer. This is also an amazing story of immigration and assimilation. Read morePublished 5 months ago by L. Moseley
I struggled to like and therefore finish this book. It sounded good but it is disjointed and after about 2/3 of it I gave up. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Barbara McCray
I really enjoyed this book because it introduced me to a culture I never knew. I would recommend this to my daughter.Published 7 months ago by Dorothy Wasp
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 13 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 15 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 18 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 20 months ago by nEIL tEICHER