Carol Anita Ryan
on Feb. 19, 2013 :
Memory, history, and demographics all play a role in a person’s understanding of the world. For the first years of the baby boomer generation, only a few years separate history from memory in the case of World War II. I am such an early baby boomer. Although born in California and raised during the 1950s in the greater Washington D. C. area, I never heard my dad or any of his peers (virtually all the males of which were veterans) talk about the then- recent war.
As a child, even as a young adult, World War II seemed ancient history to me: not something having an influence on my life. That is a fluke of my childhood memory. To get a very different perspective on memory and history of the war, you can’t do better than to read, A Tale of Survival: From War-Ravaged Europe To The Promise of America by Tom Kando.
Tom was born in Hungary in 1941. As such his earliest memories occurred right in the middle of the conflict. He and his family experienced German and Russian invasions before fleeing to France. Thus Tom spent the 1950s in post-war-torn France (a far cry from my suburban D.C. world). Tom later moved to Holland before coming alone to this country as a Fulbright Scholar.
Kando has had an amazing life according to his book which straddles the line between memoir and historical fiction. Whether true or imagined, the first portion of the book does an amazing job of bringing to light the sensibilities of a bright child in that time and place. Kando shows how a young boy idealized his beautiful and talented parents, how he resented his younger siblings, and how a child experienced the reality of foreign soldiers occupying his home (not just his country). I’d never thought about the difficulties of growing up in Europe right after the war. Kando does a wonderful job of revealing events though the eyes of a gifted and insightful child.
The story continues in America during the 1960s nearly to the present. Perhaps because some of that time and place is familiar territory, I found it less compelling. But, for me, the insight into Europe during and after the war seen by someone fairly close to my age was priceless.
(reviewed 15 days after purchase)
on Feb. 14, 2013 :
Dr. Tom Kando tells a tale that is at times disquieting, but one that is always entertaining, and ultimately inspiring…and it is a story that is more fact than fiction. As is often done by any good author, he does take some literary license, as revealed by the 9 “fibs” identified in the preface; nonetheless, the bulk of the story is an honest portrayal of his life and times, of challenges met and obstacles overcome. Born in war torn Europe, Tom’s early life was one of privation and hardship, but this did not stop him from pursuing his love for learning nor his desire to study in the United States. Eventually, through grit, persistence, and a bit of luck he follows a harrowing, sometimes rowdy and always challenging path that ultimately leads to a Ph.D. and a career in academia. Having been branded a refugee from childhood, he also realizes the dream of becoming a citizen of his adopted country.
Tom is not afraid to explore important cultural themes through the microscope of his own personal experience. Sexuality, racism, jingoism, politics, marriage, patriotism, and religion are all touched upon. Nor is Tom afraid to expose the dark-side of academia, revealing that the halls of the academia are often more hollow than hallowed. Some of the incidents and encounters are filled with pathos, many with a touch of humor, but all are subtle lessons.
Throughout the book, the professor shines through in the form of snippets of insight and wisdom. For example, in explaining why people immigrate to the United States, he has this say:
"…it was an escape from the cobwebs of cultures that hold onto subtle and not so subtle forms of traditional hierarchy, discrimination and disrespect, cultures which demand conformity and can be oppressive to the free-spirit, to the ambitious, to the individualist…. For such people, America is the promised-land because, to a large extent, America was created by such people. America is especially attractive to people with initiative, people who don’t fit the mold, people who don’t belong, in one word - individualists."
In those few words he captures the essence of traditional “American” society, and sets the stage for later social psychological discussions that are cleverly intertwined within the storyline.
This is a delightful, gripping, and insightful book. It captures your interest in the first few paragraphs and holds your attention to the very last. In the end, it leaves you feeling privileged to have had a no-holds-barred look into the life and times of a most interesting and courageous individual, and it reminds you that no matter how tumultuous the present there is always hope for a better future.
Just a guy who likes to write and draw, and enjoy a good book.
(reviewed 8 days after purchase)
on Feb. 5, 2013 :
A Tale of Survival by Tom Kando is the passionately written saga of an boy immigrant to the promised land of America. While the book is entertaining as an adventure story, it is also, and perhaps more importantly, a detailed and accurate account of history from the second world war to the present day. I enjoyed reading it from cover to cover and learned so much from it, I couldn't put it down.
(reviewed the day of purchase)