MOURNING A FATHER LOST: A Kibbutz Childhood Remembered

Abraham Balaban, Author, Avraham Balaban, Author . Rowman & Littlefield $65 (216p) ISBN 978-0-7425-2921-2 ISBN 978-0-7425-2922-9

The death of his father led Balaban to return home to Israel to mourn—but when he arrived home to the kibbutz where he'd been raised, he realized that he was mourning more than the loss of his parent. As he recounts in this deeply felt, sometimes painful memoir, he was also mourning the lack of emotion his father displayed and the communal child-rearing system he believes creates adults who "evince the selfishness of people who never got enough protection and security." For most of the 20th century, kibbutz kids lived in children's houses and only saw their parents for a few hours at a time. Balaban, a poet and literary critic who has long taught in the United States, effortlessly weaves past and present, allowing the reader to travel with him as he recounts his childhood while mourning a father who embodied the words "emotionally absent." His loving mother, on the other hand, was the author's saving grace. The book is heavy, as Balaban finds little happiness in either past or present. He's shocked, for example, to find old love letters written by his parents. But his lyrical voice ("The prolonged stay in my childhood kibbutz is turning me into a flute in which all the songs of my childhood keep resounding") and his honest criticism of the kibbutz's social experiment will pull readers in to this elegy not only for a father but for the slow death of the socialist kibbutz dream. B&w photos. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 12/22/2003
Release date: 12/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 216 pages - 978-0-7425-2922-9
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