From Library Journal
Marks (English and writing, Univ. of Hartford) chronicles the adventures of her New Orleans Jewish heritage. The daughter of Leon Weiss, a prominent architect who was selected by Huey Long in the 1930s to design the new state capitol and governor's mansion and who became entwined in Louisiana political scandals and served two years in prison, Marks presents an often moving and sympathetic account of three generations of the Dreyfous branch of the family, which emigrated to New Orleans in 1839. For over two years, Marks interviewed her mother and her elderly Aunt Ruth, read family letters, researched newspaper articles, and supplemented these sources with records from other family members. Instead of quoting extensively from family letters, Marks often adds her own dialog. She does not intend to offer an apology for Leon Weiss but rather narrates in a personal manner the triumphs and tragedies of an influential Southern Jewish family. Marks writes with great skill and passion. Recommended for general readers.?Charles C. Hay, Eastern Kentucky Univ. Archives, Richmond
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
Marks's self-described ``medley of truth and fantasy'' explores her family's history in New Orleans culture and her own experiences growing up Jewish in the segregated South. Though her long look back is spurred by a desire to learn her mother's life story after a stroke has compromised Carol Weiss's health, Marks (English and Writing/Univ. of Hartford) is most animated by the troubles of her father, Leon Weiss. Huey Long's ``chosen'' architect, Leon designed many of the buildings bankrolled by Long's million-dollar infrastructure project, including the governor's mansion and the Louisiana statehouse, where the Kingfish was gunned down in 1935. After Long's assassination, Weiss--portrayed here, not surprisingly, as an innocent man ruined by his trusting nature--was implicated in the financial scandals surrounding the administration and served prison time. Shielded from the controversy by her well-meaning parents as a child, Marks seeks answers about her father's culpability. From her mother she discovers little more than a sense of the family's ingrained stoicism, which caused her people to grieve silently and separately across the years. The focus on Leon is perhaps inevitable, since Carol defines her life by her undying loyalty to her husband, even years after his death. But when Marks turns to the history of her maternal family, her tale--lacking the front-page drama of Leon's ensnarement by Long's corrupt political machine--loses momentum in the fictional dramatizations she employs to fill gaps in the evidence. Of her upbringing she recalls having ``no clear picture of what being Jewish meant,'' since family members were only casual temple-goers. Interestingly, the prejudice felt by long-established American Jews toward first-generation Eastern European immigrants (which nearly prevented her parents from marrying) seems to have affected her family more than Southern anti-Semitism did. Marks gets no hard answers about her father, but she fashions a substantial and affecting memoir. (photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.