Thursday, April 19, 2007

Messages from My Father by Calvin Trillin

I am rescuing old books again. I found a sweet memoir by a well-known author among the books that have not been borrowed in years. It is small (maybe easy to overlook), easy to hold, a quick read. It has an attractive cover with a sepia photo. There are more old family photos in every chapter. There are no horrible stories of drug abuse, domestic dysfunction, or desperation, which are so common in many recent tell-all memoirs. It is a gentle story (but not sappy) about how immigrants become Americans. Many readers should enjoy and identify with this family story.

The well-known author is Calvin Trillin, and the book is Messages from My Father. In it he tells how a boy with his "feet stuck in the mud" outside Kiev becomes a Midwesterner who aims to send his son to Yale, a very American university. After immigrating via Galveston around age two, Abe Trillin grew up in St. Joseph, Missouri and later moved to Kansas City where he raised his family and operated grocery stores and restaurants and invested in real estate. Calvin describes him a stubborn, quirky father who could embarrass his children, but whose "messages" turn out to foresee the future accurately.

Famous for his essays in The New Yorker, Trillan has written many lightly humorous autobiographical books. Many readers have recently enjoyed About Alice. They would like this book, too. Librarians should recommend it.

Trillin, Calvin. Messages from My Father. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1996. ISBN 0374208603

1 comment:

thomas ford said...

My Senior Book Club read this book back about 1999. They liked it very much.