Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Esty: A Novel/Memoir

I’m happy to announce that my new book, Esty: A Novel/Memoir, is now ready for distribution and purchase. It is available from me directly—you can email me at, for mailing and payment instructions; or you can send a check for $16.95 plus CA tax (if relevant) and $3.50 shipping & handling, to Lawrence DiStasi, P.O. Box 533, Bolinas, CA 94924—or on (be sure to key in the full title).
            I should explain a bit about the title (“Esty” was my grandmother’s nickname, short for Ezsther, which was her given name). I call the book a “novel/memoir” because in the manuscript my mother gave me near the end of her life, she began by writing a novel about her mother (Esty) and her romance with a nobleman for whom her parents worked, but then before too long drifted into a memoir about her own life: her birth in Hungary; the family’s ordeal during World War I; her 1920 emigration, with her mother and sister, to America to follow her father, who had left before she was born; her growing up in both Indianapolis and Brooklyn; and her own forbidden romance with my Italian-born father. It is the latter that provides the juice of the story, and the impetus for her attempt to remake herself. My contribution, in commentary, filling in episodes of her later life, and creating an imaginary dialogue between her and me, also partakes of both memoir and fiction. Hence, a “novel/memoir.”
            Rather than try to convince you of its merit, I’ll let a few others speak for me. Poet Maria Mazziotti Gillan, on the back cover, called Esty
“brilliant..a gripping family saga, an exploration of DiStasi’s past and heritage that is so fascinating and layered it is difficult to put down…This is a beautifully-nuanced book that is not to be missed.”

My blogging colleague George Giacoppe called Esty
            “a masterful treatment of a delicate set of issues…Normally an epilogue is space-filling gas, but Esty is an exception. The edgy discussion of the family history is an absolutely delightful treatment that adds to the mystery and the conflict…”

Historian and feminist scholar Lucia Birnbaum writes, “I’m about half way through and stunned by your perceptions…not to speak of your writing.”  Then there’s what I wrote to describe the book for my fundraising site:
“Esty is not just a family saga, though it is that. It’s also a rare collaboration based on an actual-not-imagined manuscript, and an observer’s eye that simultaneously accepts and questions and deepens the story it is telling. The rich tapestry that results gives us something like a postmodern origin myth. It is both innocent and self-conscious; both a mother’s attempt to revise her patriarchally abusive roots, and a son’s attempt to verify them; both a story of immigration, and a drama of call and response that generates a triple love story touching on female rebellion, the search for identity, and the yearning for liberation.”

Finally, about the cover (above). The image was taken in Hungary and depicts Esty with my mother at about age two, clinging to her mother’s hand. The full photo, from about 1916, can be found inside the book, along with several others. I’m hoping it makes you curious enough to read the whole thing (see ordering information above.)

Lawrence DiStasi

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