Here are Albinoni's Oboe Concertos.
This highly engaging read is the story of the author's family and their
history. She starts with her parents at the end of their lives. They are
old and irascible. Living in New York City, Dorothy Gallagher finds
herself driving back and forth from her home to upstate New York to care
for her parents. They live in filthy conditions and refuse to take care
of themselves. She can't get them to move nearer to her or even in with
her. Social Services inform her that they can do nothing against their
They eventually die and that is the first chapter. The rest of the book is going back in time to when her parents immigrated from the Ukraine to America before WWI, worked hard and succeeded and stayed devout Communists. Even when news of Stalin's atrocities were undeniable, they waved it away. OK, people starved to death by the millions. You have to break a few eggs to make omelets.
Ms. Gallagher is not impressed and she deftly exposes the irrationality of clinging to an ideal when the consequences are fleshed out into reality and come crashing down around it.
The author was raised on the edge of Harlem and saw it change from predominantly Irish, Scottish, and Italian families to mostly black (she says negro, but that seems a bit dated). Being the only Jewish girl at school, in addition to being the only white student, she got beat up regularly but was told by her parents that the bullies were the victims because of their color, not her.
She rode that precarious edge where anything you said or did was considered racist or oppressive. Not by black people, mind you, but by her parents and their fellow Jewish communists. It's hard to believe this was back in the forties. It sounds like today.
Ms. Gallagher does not sugarcoat her parents or their family members. They are presented in all the lively, colorful glory from their lives back in the Ukraine to the rest of the lives in New York and eventually Florida and California.
Her writing is reminiscent of Isaac Bashivis Singer with wry humor and charismatic characters, except she is writing a biography of her family, not fiction.
The last couple of vignettes are of her attempts and finally success at becoming a professional writer.
I read this book in two sittings on the same day, that's how readable it is.