Oksana Marafioti’s memoir brings to light a minority culture that most people have very little knowledge of beyond TLC’s My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding. Yes, Marafioti does write about one of those extravagant affairs, in which she donned a mango-colored taffeta gown and teased her hair to the heavens, but the strength of her book lies in the way it makes her Romani family, who moved to California in the early ’90s, and their over-the-top lifestyle relatable. When she was 15, for example, Marafioti went with her father to fetch her stepmother from an underground poker ring in California—it’s both an outrageous story and an all-too-common tale of addiction.

This is really a collection of linked stories, and Marafioti often jumps confusingly between time and place. But when she focuses on her relationship with her divorced parents, she writes with both love and disappointment. Growing up, Marafioti’s mother and father thought it was best for her to hide her Gypsy heritage, and almost 20 years later she’s still searching for her true identity. Whether writing about her wanna-be musician dad who tells fortunes for a living, or her alcoholic mother who fantasizes about living the American dream, she never blames her parents for her problems; instead she writes with humor and sadness about the life she had, no matter how weird it must seem to those on the outside.

($10.98 at barnesandnoble.com)

By Shannon Carlin

cover-TaviGevinson
This review appears in the Aug/Sept 2012 issue of BUST Magazine with cover girl Tavi GevinsonSubscribe now.

 

 

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