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Memoir strays from current popular topics, brings refreshing take to genre

Elizabeth Fox

Issue date: 3/6/09 Section: Focus
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Amid the releases of many controversial and sensational books comes an old-fashioned memoir that lacks bitterness, extensive gloom, and unnecessary sarcasm. Myron Uhlberg's Hands of My Father is a touching alternative to most contemporary memoirs because of its charisma, interesting historical context, and exercise in nostalgic voice.

Hands delves deep into detail about living in early to mid-20th century Brooklyn, where Uhlberg's struggle to communicate with his deaf parents is chronicled through light-hearted prose and an atypical reversal of roles. As a young child, he served as his parents' voice to the seemingly complicated and unkind world of the "norm" - he was the demanding customer, the critic of music and drama, the observer, the "concerned parent" (see the chapter about his childish deceit at the parent-teacher conferences), and the child hero. He was forever rooted in reality because of his parents' perceived stigma and the social handicap that went with it, and understood how the world could be cruel at a young age.

However, regardless of the collective inhumanity present in his young life, Uhlberg's stories avoid straining himself for the pity of the reader; he presents his story in a grounded and fluffily humorous fashion in a genre that used to be the territory of washed-up celebrities and otherwise miserable people.

Instead of telling of a war's struggle, a metaphorical death, or an over-publicized addiction to heroin, he ventures into warmer territory by citing his relationship with his parents as special and their means of communication as "technicolor," which is in deep contrast to memoirs such as Augusten Burroughs' A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of My Father, in which the whole text is spent telling the reader of how much of a lowlife one's parent can be.

Uhlberg's writing is driven by his flush memories ("Then my father's hands came alive again, eloquently describing a warm spring afternoon in 1932 Brooklyn...") and his attentive personality ("Its jaunty design was at odds with the feeling of dread that grew in him that day..."), which combine to bring us a nice, comforting tale to combat our current selfish societal, and maybe even nostalgic, woes.

If we lived in the same happy, innocent, and slightly nauseating world as the one in little Myron's mind, the Mommie Dearests of the world wouldn't exist, and maybe that absence of conflict is for the better. But until we can reach that point, we'll have rare and decent memoirs like Hands to remind us that our family reunions are not as bad as we think they are.
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In This Issue

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  • The Internet and your finances
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  • USG's Student Life Improvement Grant delayed, but still moving

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  • Baseball: Spartans split No. 10 Wooster
  • Men's Basketball: Spartans get happy ending against Emory
  • MLB Preview: Angels will continue to dominate AL West
  • Softball Preview: Young, small squad and interim head coach hope to come together
  • Spartan Spotlight: Phil Keefe
  • Track & Field: Nwanna mastering all trades
  • Women's basketball struggles in second half, falls to Emory

Fun Page

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  • Jumble Answers
  • Sudoku Answers

Opinion

  • Chimp mauling, octomom clog Congressional operations
  • Editorial: Grant selection process needs refinement
  • Good night's sleep brings health, success

Focus

  • Local artist opens tongue-in-cheek exhibit at AAWR
  • Memoir strays from current popular topics, brings refreshing take to genre
  • Sex and Dating: The benefits of casual sex
  • Spartans of Style: Picking the perfect suit
  • Spring break 2009: a slice of Case students' travel plans
  • The Buzz
  • The Secret Ingredient: Tart and tangy grapefruit
  • The Worst Case Scenario: Enjoying Cleveland in the spring
  • U2 expands Horizon with experimental album
  • Watchmen delivers on hype, lives up to comics
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