Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Coming to Astoria: An Immigrant's Tale Paperback – December 11, 2012
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
In many ways Omar's immigrant story is similar to every immigrant's story: leaving one's land of birth to start a new life based on the belief and faith of finding new opportunities for a better life. On other levels, Omar's story is deeply personal and all uniquely his own. His Middle Eastern background and culture permeate all aspects of his life as a child and as a young adult. Omar's parents were teenagers when they married, it was an arranged marriage which is a common custom in the Middle East and among Arabic cultures. Apparently it was a good match, they ended up bringing ten children into the world, it would have been twelve but sadly two died as babies. When the family moved to New York, there were five children. Omar's description of his childhood and growing up years is filled with fond memories, joys and sorrows which all children experience, being the new kid on the block was not easy. Eventually, he became "street wise" kid and developed long lasting friendships.
The stories about his shoe shine jobs to earn money, the bike he built from used parts and how it was lost, his three years of going to summer camp, Camp Iriquois on Bear Mountain are impressive to read. At camp, he became an outstanding swimmer and set new records. His work ethic amused and impressed the camp counselors because he participated with enthusiasm in all aspects of work: collecting firewood, cutting wood, cleaning and sweeping the camp sleeping quarters. It was an adventure for him. Omar learned early in life, the value of hard, yet he ended up giving his checks to his mother who used it for household expenses. When his parents first decided to move back to Jordan, Omar visited but chose instead to finish high school in the USA while living with his oldest sister and her family. He commuted to New York from New Jersey. His "commuter tales" are very well written. Omar attended Aviation High School to learn a trade and become an airplane mechanic, he graduated in the top 50 of his class.
His life changed a lot after graduation, his opportunities widened to include attending Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. Going to college was something he did to please his father, it was not a strong desire on his part. This may have been the main reason he did not apply himself to his studies as he should have. A rift developed with his father over Omar's having left the University. Following his Florida experience, Omar returned up North and furthered his education by getting qualified for a second license in airplane mechanics related to the airframe. During this interval, his parents had returned from Jordan and bought a house in New Jersey. However, later his dad developed health problems and was advised to live in a dry warm climate and which again uprooted the family back to Jordan. Omar joined them, with the hope of landing a job in Jordan in his chosen field. As an American educated Middle Easterner, Omar was struck by many many customs and mores associated with this brief visit to his former homeland. I love his descriptions of the various popular Middle Eastern foods and desserts which he enjoyed. His mother's plan to launch him into adulthood by arranging a marriage with a suitable bride fell apart but his thoughts and ideas associated with this time honored tradition are worth reading. In Jordan, Omar was offered a job to teaching airplane mechanics maintenance but since it paid only the equivalent of six hundred US dollars per month, he declined the position and after two months returned to the USA. Once more he lived with Rania, his oldest sister and her family. Next, San Fernando Valley, California beckoned with potential work opportunities in the aviation industry. While Omar *did* explore living in California, discovering and landing a job was not among his experiences. He returned to New York where he met Stephanie, the love of his life, which changed everything for him. In this book, we learn how Omar made peace with his Middle Eastern Arabic heritage and came to terms with significant events associated with his father's death. The true stories in this book are very compelling. They are written with honesty and integrity and will prove to be a great source of inspiration, strength and pride for Omar's children when they grow up and understand more about the complex world into which they were born. Reviewer received book as gift with option to review. Congratulations to Omar for writing this book, sharing his life story and arriving at a point of peace and satisfaction on life's journey. Erika Borsos [pepper flower]
Please note: I am not an expert on the history of the many wars and the culture of terror and exploitation in the Middle East, so I am not going to properly set the stage for this story. I do not want to be disrespectful to the real human crises in this region by misrepresenting them. However, I encourage *all* readers from around the world to look closely at the past 80 years (well, actually, 3000 or so) in the Middle East. Avoid popular media because each journalist and news outlet has a rooting interest in their writing. Read the history books and the documents from the times, and learn. The "conflict in the Middle East," as we Westerners like to sanitize and call it, is unresolved for very complicated, very violent, very ugly reasons.
Kiam's Coming to Astoria is wonderful because it gives us a first-person account of what happens to the average family caught in the borders and within Arab cultural traditions. We don't often have the chance to listen to the common man's story. We hear what the governments do not censor or what Al Jazeera or CNN chose to report. We listen to stories of celebrities who have overcome humble beginnings and so on. Those stories are all slanted, and not representative of the more average experience. Coming to Astoria is the story of a typical person trying to live within and around these conflicts.
For its universality, Coming to Astoria is worth the read. However, as a work of writing, it is clearly the result of someone not well-practiced in the skill and art of story-telling. The narrative often rambles. Scenes from the author's memory are given great detail, and then years are glossed over, with no connecting tissue between them. There is no unifying theme. Kiam occasionally wanders into the realm of political rant, and spends pages blasting Arab governments and family customs, particularly pertaining to the treatment of women, and then returns to a catalog-like listing of events from his life. Approximately half of the book is spent bitterly detailing the abusiveness of family members, with no resolution other than "eventually I met and married a nice American girl and raised great kids." Overcoming a history of domestic violence is no small accomplishment - I would have liked to hear that story.
In summary, the story would benefit from a ghost writer, or a very strong editor, who can connect Kiam's dots and present a complete tale rather than a set of scenes. One wants to enjoy the book for its unique perspective and first person narrative, but the writing gets in the way. Hopefully, this author will continue to work on his craft, and retell the story again in more polished form.
This review first appeared on irevuo.com