Category Archives: Autobiography

Review: A Long Way Home

A Long Way Home, by Saroo Brierley, is a book that is heartfelt in so many aspects, beginning with the author getting lost on a train at the age of five. From that moment, onward, Brierley’s journey, where it took him, and how he managed to find his way back home, begins.

He was with his brother. His brother had left him at a train station while he ran errands, before coming back for him. Brierley saw a train, went on it to rest until his brother came back. He fell asleep and woke up with train moving along, and there was no way for Brierley to get off of it. Throughout the trip, no conductor asked for a ticket, and nobody questioned him. The train finally ended up in Kolkata (Calcutta). The city was teaming with people, and he was more or less engulfed in the crowds, the streets and harsh realities of survival.

Some individuals who passed through his life were not so kind. But, survive he did, using his intuition, the bit of five-year old logic he had, and at times, the kindness of others. Finally, the kindness of one young man who gave him refuge for a few days led Brierley to a police station, where he was held in a cell, overnight (imagine the fright). From the police station he was taken to an orphanage in Kolkata (Calcutta), by a woman named Mrs. Snood.

She was a kind woman, and very motherly in her ways. She treated him and the other children with caring and dignity. Brierley needed that after experiencing street life. Even though the orphanage was crowded, it felt comfortable to him. A couple of months passed by, and Brierley was told he was going to have new parents, because, with the little information he was able to give her, they could not locate his birth family.

From Kolkata, he journey to Tasmania, where he grew up with the Brierleys. They were a loving, kind and understanding couple. They treated him with the utmost of respect and compassion. Their house was decorated with Indian accessories. They had even provided a map of India on one wall of his bedroom, so he would feel at home.

He had a good life with his parents. He was never in need, and never lacking love. He went to university, worked with his father in his father’s business, had all of the comforts of home and life.

As he grew older, he wanted to learn more, and attempted to find the town he was from, through internet research. He thought that the little he remembered would help him. He failed, and let it go for a few years, when he began anew, through Google Earth. Google Earth became his life, in his off hours. He was addicted to his search.

He remembered the station he had left from, remembered everything about it. He remembered his village and his way around the streets. He remembered names, sights, landscape. He devoted every spare minute to roaming cities, villages, streets, through his ardent and ambitious research.

Then, one day, bingo! He was following train tracks, and found his home town! He was elated, to say the least. He knew he had to travel there to see if his family was still living in the same place, and/or to see if they were alive. Alive they were!

He met his mother, brother, and sister. He met in-laws and nephews. He had journeyed the face of the earth, through Google Earth, and had come home.

The memoir is poignant and had me turning one page after another. I became involved in Brierley’s life, his search for family, roots, and identity. What was illuminating, was not only his journey, but also the outcome regarding his family in India. They fully understood that he defined his parents as the Brierley’s. It went without his having to say so, as his birth mother verbalized that fact. She was just elated that he had found her. She never left the village, and moved around the corner from the house he initially lived in. She stayed in case he came searching. As it turned out, that was such a wise decision.

I enjoyed A Long Way Home so much. Foundation, family and identity are blended together in a beautiful story of strength and perseverance. Saroo Brierley has written an inspirational memoir. I highly recommend it to everyone.

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Filed under Autobiography, Book Diva's Book Reviews, Family Dynamics, General, Inspiration, Memoirs

Book Diva Review: Society’s Child

Society’s Child: My Autobiography, by Janis Ian, is a book that is written with forthrightness. I don’t own this particular book, but have read it, and was quite impressed with her ability for writing in a candid manner, while not expecting or wanting sympathy from the reader. It shouldn’t have surprised me, judging from the lyrics to the song “Society’s Child”, that put her in the limelight, front and center, beginning in 1966.

Ian writes in a straightforward manner, infusing her autobiography with her life beginning as the daughter of Jews, not Orthodox Jews, yet “fervent Jews“, who celebrated Jewish holidays, occasions and events. We follow her through the decades, from her teenage struggles with success, through her struggles with drugs, an abusive marriage, and even mortgaging her house in order to fund a record album.

Janis Ian is candid, and generous in describing her life. In my opinion, Janis Ian’s “Society’s Child: My Autobiography” is a book not to be missed, if you haven’t already read it.

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Book Diva Review – Joseph Anton: A Memoir

josephanton Joseph Anton: A Memoir, by Salman Rushdie was an exceptionally fascinating, gripping and compelling memoir. The title, itself, was a necessary alias that Rushdie created from the given names of two of his favorite authors: Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekhov.

When Rushdie was sentenced to death by the Ayatollah Khomeini after writing The Satanic Verses, it was necessary for him to go into hiding, and therefore, for him to change his name. He changed it on everything, from bank accounts to all important documentation.

From the moment I began reading Joseph Anton, I could not put it down. It was one of those reads where I was completely involved in the events and circumstances of Rushdie’s life in hiding.

He left no stone unturned in his relaying his ordeal. He was extremely concerned for his family members. He had a son named Zafar from his marriage with his first wife, Clarissa. He wanted to be able to spend as much time as possible with Zafar, and he and the British Secret Service were able to figure out ways to make it happen. Years later, he had a son named Milan with his third wife, Elizabeth. His public image was one of mixed feelings. People either supported him, or they decried him. They decried him over his book, they decried him over his choice to go into hiding, they decried him over the monetary expense it was costing England to protect him.

If it wasn’t for his some extremely close friends, friends of friends and other supporters, it would have been impossible for him to continue to hide for as long as he did. And, stay hidden he did, whether it was for one night, one week, one month or longer, he became the prey, and his life was no longer the life he knew or had control over. It involved a web of places to hide from his would-be perpetrators. His protectors became his life line, including the British Secret Police, who were with him through every step he took.

Rushdie’s life was no longer his to control. He was a prisoner, literally, within his confines. He was controlled by time and place, by police and constant hiding, by his refusal to apologize for his book. Some say, an apology could have avoided the circumstances he lived under, but who knows for sure whether it could have. And, the issue was far greater than an apology.

Rushdie felt, that as a writer, he should have freedom of expression. That was at the core of his thinking. That is what kept him going, kept his emotional state strong, and how he strove for freedom, freedom within the literary pages. He believed that writing was the bridge to cultural understanding, the bridge to empathy and sympathy for others outside their own boundaries. He felt that through his writing he could somehow contribute to the turning around of the mindset of bigotry and narrow minded perceptions. If his writing touched one person in a positive manner, than it served its purpose.

Rushdie wrote while in hiding, it didn’t deter his literary endeavors. In fact it heightened his commitment to write and kept him sane. He was in hiding for over a decade, and wrote throughout that time.

Throughout the pages one gains a sense of the man through his descriptions. He writes of pride, of anger, of arguments with police, friends and non supporters, he writes of his frustration in letters to editors of newspapers (often angry letters), he writes with humor, here and there, he writes in minute detail of his life, beginning in the land of his birth…Bombay, India. The reader learns about his parents, Muslims of Kashmiri descent. He, himself, is an atheist. But, his background and upbringing are constant visuals within the pages of his books.

One thing is evident within Rushdie’s memoir: He believed in himself, he fought for the freedom of written expression, he tried to evoke tolerance towards others in his writing-those not affiliated within one’s own religious boundaries or cultural borders. That he loved his family beyond words, is also clear.

I can’t say enough about Joseph Anton: A Memoir, by Salman Rushdie. It is extremely detailed, intense, fascinating, and written with honesty. It is intriguing, masterfully written with vivid word imagery. I highly recommend it to everyone.

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