Follow This Blog: RSS feed
Adult Books 4 Teens
Inside Adult Books 4 Teens

American Gypsy: A Memoir

Oksana Marfioti (née Kopylenko) has succeeded in writing a funny and creative coming-of-age memoir, one that encompasses the immigrant experience, an inside look at Roma culture, and one doozy of a dysfunctional family. (Her father moves to the U.S. hoping to play with B.B. King but ends up telling fortunes and performing exorcisms. Quite lucrative in L.A., apparently.)

She gives a fun self-interview on The Nervous Breakdown, and there is an excerpt from American Gypsy up on NPR books.

MARFIOTI, Oksana. American Gypsy: A Memoir. 370p. photos. Farrar. 2012. pap. $16. ISBN 978-0-374-10407-8. LC 2011047075.  American Gypsy

Adult/High School–Fifteen-year-old Oksana longed for a life far away from the USSR in a land of MTV music videos, Hollywood stars, and individually wrapped cheese slices. Her family, Romani Gypsy musical performers, immigrated to Los Angeles in 1990 in an attempt to escape their status as “third-class citizens” oppressed by the Soviet regime. Just two months after their arrival, her father, Andrei, took off with his tarot card-reading, spirit-channeling mistress. Oksana, her younger sister Roxy, and their alcoholic mother never realized their dream of living in a mansion; instead, they were forced to settle for an apartment in a complex “identical to the Butyrka prison back in Moscow.” But although persecuted and discriminated against in her homeland, Marafioti found that Gypsies in America were imbued with an exotic mystique. More than just a coming-of-age memoir, American Gypsy is a window into the lives of the Romani. Marafioti tells her story with frank honesty, writing with a sense of humor that spotlights the ridiculous ironies of her life. Her first serious boyfriend, a persistent Brazilian suitor, was run off by her father for being a gadjo–a non-Roman outsider. But Andrei himself, born to a Russian Greek mother, seduced Oksana’s Armenian mother away from her previous husband. Teens will identify with the author’s universal attempts to fit in at school, shuttle between the broken halves of her beyond-dysfunctional family, and make her parents proud. Funny and addictive, American Gypsy reads like the diary of the best friend you wish you had.–Paula Gallagher, Baltimore County Public Library, MD

Angela Carstensen About Angela Carstensen

Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.