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A vivid and funny memoir about growing up Gypsy and becoming American
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 that his girls lead a better, freer life. In America! Also, he wants to play guitar with B. B. King. And cure cancer with his...
A vivid and funny memoir about growing up Gypsy and becoming American
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 that his girls 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. Soon they are living on the sketchier side of Hollywood.
What little 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. With unsentimentally perfect pitch, American Gypsy reveals how Marafioti adjusted to her new life in America, one slice of processed cheese at a time.
“Touching . . . Funny . . . A rich, colorful story about a long misunderstood culture.” —Publishers Weekly
“A most entertaining, informative and worthwhile read . . . American Gypsy is warm and funny—often very funny—and, always, is a revelation.” —Ellen Stirling, Living Las Vegas
“Beyond the usual stereotypes of thieves in caravans, this drama of finding a home at last strikes universal chords, not least with the hilarious family theatrics and the contemporary immigrant mess-ups . . . [A] wry, unforgettable memoir.” —Booklist
“American Gypsy is a fun, humorous and sometimes heartbreaking memoir of a teenage Russian immigrant . . . [A] spirited and touching coming-of-age tale.” —Cindi Moon Reed, Vegas Seven
“[Oksana Marafioti’s] witty, often hilarious account of her new life (not quite what MTV had promised) takes us for a ride through an immigrant’s world, presenting the challenges of reconciling boyfriends, fast food, and séances with her family’s strict Roma traditions.” —Annasue McCleave Wilson, Biographile
“An illuminating and unvarnished peek into a much-misunderstood culture, one that’s been plagued for centuries by discrimination and worse. That said, while American Gypsy documents some dark and troubling events, it offers just as many funny and heartwarming moments.” —Geoff Schumacher, Las Vegas CityLife
“Oksana Marafioti’s American Gypsy stands apart . . . A rare firsthand glimpse into the reality of contemporary Romani life.” —Ian Hancock, director of the Program of Romani Studies, the University of Texas at Austin
Excerpted from American Gypsy by Oksana Marafioti Copyright © 2012 by Oksana Marafioti. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted July 20, 2012
Forget about the Gypsy "reality show" on televison and read this wonderful book instead.
Oxsana Marifioti brings us on a marvelous tour of authentic Romani culture, her immigrant experience, and the natural angst of a teenager who's also new to, and trying to fit into American culture.
At times, funny, poignant, sad, and joyous, this book brings us behind the curtain of an "exotic" culture and nationality where we find the same issues, problems, and goals that everyone faces no matter what their ethnic identity. It also provides some fun commonalities like sipping bubbles from a teacup -- my English mother obeyed this same superstition as I do today!
From page one to its concluding paragraph, American Gypsy absorbed me, increased my understanding of another race/culture, entertained me with its verve, and pleased me with its authenticity and honesty.
A MUST READ!"
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Posted December 21, 2013
I started American Gypsy on what was possibly the worse day of my life. My husband was scheduled for
a colonoscopy due to some unsettling symptoms. I sat in the waiting room reading Oksana Marafioti's
book, never expecting to be interrupted in the middle of chapter three by the doctor informing me that M.
had a malignant tumor.
As may be imagined, it took me a while to return to the book much less review it. Even after the time
lapse, I fell right back into the honest, heartfelt recollections of a young girl struggling to find her way in
a new country. The family arrives in the United States from Russia with high hopes that are quite at
odds with the reality of the hard-scrabble life that awaits them. Things get especially tough after the
parents divorce. Oksana, her sister, and their mother struggle to make ends meet. But there's an even
bigger challenge for Oksana as she attempts to reconcile her heritage (Gypsy culture is as idiosyncratic
as it is rich) with the American life she's working so hard to build via her schooling, music, and
I enjoyed the inside view we get of traditional Gypsy life as it existed in the Russia of Oksana's youth. It
shattered stereotypes that I didn't even realize I held. The author tells her family's stories--even the hard,
unhappy stories--with such humor and compassion. American Gypsy is an engaging and worthwhile
read, and I can't help hoping for a sequel.
Posted October 25, 2013
Truly exceptional. This is the best memoir I have ever read, and I've read dozens and dozens. Marifioti kept me hooked from page one on-- I even contemplated calling out of work to continue reading (instead I snuck chapters at my desk all day when no one else was looking). She is an extraordinarily talented writer-- her metaphors startle and sing and made me FEEL what she was describing-- but beyond that, more importantly, she understands how to craft descriptions of human emotion, and individuality and character, so that a reader is invested in every single thing the people in the book go through. Especially Oksana herself.
Plus the exorcism scene towards the end can't be beat! Chilling!
I would give this 6 stars if I could. One of the best books I've ever come across. Please write more, Oksana!
Posted February 14, 2013
I loved this book! I want to know about the years after high school and college and what Oksana is doing now. I care about her! I also enjoyed the beautiful photos, as well as the authors photo at the end...something I dearly miss as I read and enjoy my nook.....i miss the book jackets showing authors photos! Thank you, Oksana, for taking the time to tell us your colorful story !Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 20, 2012
I found this memoir quite interesting. Not having much knowledge of gypsy culture it was an illuminating look inside, especially at the family dynamics. The writer's approach is light-hearted, even in situations that would have left me angrier than angry (you get the idea). The step-mother that Marafioti ends up living with is unbelievable and would have pushed me right over the deep end. I give Marafioti a lot of credit for keeping her eye on the prize. Her writing style will pull you right into the story and have you rooting for her the whole way through. This would be a great book for book clubs.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 27, 2012
Remember the moments of angst you experienced as a teenager? Those feelings will return ten-fold as you read this memoir and will not be able to put it down. Young Oksana encounters more obstacles in her childhood, primarily situations instigated by the adults around her, than most Americans experience in a lifetime.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 21, 2012
It is no wonder that we are all in agreement on the 5 star rating of this book. It is exceptional. Oksana relates as someone we know, love and wish the best things happen to. This book is hard to put down and pieces of it stay with you like fresh air.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.