Librarians Read: Regional Memoirs

Lara Prior-Palmer’s memoir of riding in the Mongolian Derby was an escape into another world for me. The endurance required for this huge race over 1000 kilometers of Mongolian steppe on a series of 25 horses is astounding and it’s no wonder that each year more than half of the riders don’t finish. Lara’s youth and naivete certaining must have played a part in her success as she raced forward finding previously untapped reserves of power and resolve. Here’s a passage from the middle when she has been thrown from a horse in the middle of a stage of the race with no one anywhere nearby to help.

“When I step towards him, he hops away like the kitchen mouse who used to ignite our late nights in London. There’s a strangeness, for a horse, to losing a rider – the centaur vanishes, his partner becomes a predator at his side. He can feel unsettlingly light and flighty. The strap around [his] leg looks as though it’s about to break, which will let him bolt over the boglands while I hum my way after him. I prowl shyly, my eyes on the ground. I don’t want him thinking he’s my target. Each second feels the size of the steppe.”

Also wonderful was Boris Fishman’s memoir of leaving Belarus as a youth with his family, the memorable journey of their emigration through Austria and Italy and finally to New York. Food is the unifying theme and many recipes are included.

“Everyone was too shaken to go back to sleep. The illicit hour, the close call, the candy – I was filled with a sense of adventure. My grandmother boiled water for tea. The five of us, two adults per berth and me on my grandmother’s knees, drank it from West German tea cups, cobalt with gold trim, that she and my mother had babied into our luggage. They were among the things that we were told might sell well in Vienna and Rome, our transit points in route to America, but until then they were ours, and we sucked at their hot rims through the caramels on our tongues.”

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