American Gypsy

Oksana Marafioti. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $16 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-374-10407-8
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)
Reviewed on: 05/07/2012
Release date: 07/03/2012
Open Ebook - 384 pages - 978-1-4299-4526-4
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