Fifteen-year-old Oksana Marafioti is a Gypsy. This means touring with the family band, from the Mongolian deserts to the Siberian tundra. It means getting your hair cut in the Lioness. It also means enduring sneering racism from every segment of Soviet society. Her father is determined for his girls to lead a better, freer life. In America! Also, he wants to play guitar with B. B. King. And cure cancer with his personal magnetism. All of this he confides to the woman at the American embassy, who inexplicably allows the family entry. What Oksana and her sister, Roxy, know of the United States they've learned from MTV, subcategory George Michael. It doesn't quite prepare them for the challenges of immigration. Why are the glamorous Kraft Singles individually wrapped? Are the little soaps in the motels really free? How do you protect your nice new boyfriend from your opinionated father, who wants you to marry decently, within the clan? In this affecting, hilarious memoir, Marafioti cracks open the secretive world of the Roma and brings the absurdities, miscommunications, and unpredictable victories of the immigrant experience to life.
At 15, Marafioti, granddaughter and daughter of Roma performers, arrives in Hollywood from Russia, encountering culture clash and the rapid disintegration of her family, both rendered with touching, funny, and outlandish details. In the U.S.S.R., she'd been part of the upper class and traveled with the act, but was subjected to intense prejudice as a mistrusted "gyp." In her new homeland, her father marries his mistress, while Marafioti, her sister, and mother furnish their own apartment scavenging Beverly Hills castoffs and she learns that Gypsies are Stevie Nicksesque bohemians plus history and hatred. It's a source of liberation for her, and for her father and stepmother, who rely on the old ways and become sought-after palm readers. As the best English speaker among them, Marafioti is routinely conscripted into serving as a translator for the readings, even getting dragged to the cemetery to steal dirt for a curse. Her struggles between the two worlds play out daily as she deals with her father's chauvinism and his push for her to join the business and marry one of their own while she's trying to learn English, figure out how to have a Brazilian boyfriend, and get through the immigrant teenage experience. Although her journey would be more satisfying if it went beyond high school, Marafioti has a rich, colorful story about a long misunderstood culture that she treasures, despite some truly antiquated beliefs. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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July 03, 2012
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