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The Fortune Teller's Kiss
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The Fortune Teller's Kiss

3.36 of 5 stars 3.36  ·  rating details  ·  95 ratings  ·  28 reviews
There was always the incantation: “Whoever wishes you harm, may harm come to them!” And just in case that didn’t work, there were garlic and cloves to repel the Evil Eye—or, better yet, the dried foreskin from a baby boy’s circumcision, ground to a fine powder. But whatever precautions Brenda Serotte was subjected to, they were not enough. Shortly before her eighth birthda ...more
Hardcover, 220 pages
Published March 1st 2006 by University of Nebraska Press (first published 2006)
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Ruth Segal
A compelling and readable memoir about a woman who gets polio at the age of seven. I learned a huge amount I didn't know. Not only about polio but about Sephardic Jews. Her family is made up of a wild mixture of spanish and turkish very jewish very intense people. Her mother gives me the chills, for quite personal reasons and I am mind-blown by how much compassion the author has for her mother. Also moving to me personally was the fact that much of the story takes place in the New York neighborh ...more
This is the true story of a young Sephardic Jewish girl living in Brooklyn in the 1950's. At the age of 8, she develops polio and her life completely changes. It is a story of the old world of gypsies and fortune tellers meeting the new world of hospitals and exreme medical treatments. Well written and interesting. It is particularly interesting due to my family background with my father who developed polio as a child and also lived in Brooklyn.
There was way too much going on in this book...though I was sympathetic to the author's struggle with polio, I just didn't think the book was particularly engaging or interesting. The Sephardic information is okay, but I found the book to be very repetitive and not especially well-written.
The author was my mother's best friend growing up in the Bronx and they are still the best of friends today. My mom and my grandparents are talked about in the novel too! I was so moved by this novel.
Paula Korelitz
I wasn't crazy about the writing, but I was very interested in both her experiences as a polio victim and her cultural life as a Turkish Sephardic Jew.
It's an interesting read about the author's experiences and life as a child with polio (1954) and its sociocultural ramifications of dealing with the disease. The medical world into which she was thrust was not often kind and quite shocking by today's standards. On a positive note, her time at Rusk was much better and certainly quite productive.

Her mother, difficult at best, often did not seem very supportive nor [overtly] loving. Her father, on the other hand (and I'm thinking probably unusuall
Oct 22, 2008 Ssadow added it
That with enough strength you can do miracles.
It was interesting to read about this Sephardic family and I also learned a lot about polio. It takes place over a fairly short period of time during the author's life and I was disappointed in not only the end but also, the fact that we never learned about the rest of the her life.
Suzanne Hughes
Memoir from the 1950's during a big polio epidemic. I was very interested in both her experiences as a polio victim and her cultural life as a Turkish Sephardic Jew. I knew people in high school who had contracted polio but never was aware of the challenges the experience caused.
Ellen Pilch
This book was not only a great memoir, but also very educational. The author is a Sephardic Jew and explained a lot of her culture. All the books I have read about Jewish people have been about Ashklenazi Jewish people (from Europe). There is quite a difference.

This poor woman had polio as a child and suffered a great deal trying to recover. I had no idea that physical therapy existed back then- a much harsher version of todays. The book kept me interested from page one to the end. I was also f
The book describes a time and a place that I knew nothing about. The stories of her polio and her families life in NYC were very interesting. I had no idea that there were Jewish Turks living and maintaining their culture.
Interesting, very readable but I did not feel that I knew the author much better at the end.
I know the author and met her mother who was really funny when not behind her cold exterior which I now realize was her way of not showing her conflicting feelings about her daughter's contacting polio. And her husband's gambling. Maybe she felt that would make Brenda strong to cope with her disability. Bye the way Brenda is an amazing woman who has accomplished a great deal and inspires other writers through her writing and teaching. And the father daughter relationship is very important in her ...more
Joanne Gotto
I just finished this book for my book club. It was well written, funny and sad at times and very engaging. It was very interesting to read it from a healthcare perspective viewing the 1950's and also what it was like prior to the ADA (disabilities) ruling being in place. Things that we take for granted now like wheelchair access and mainstreaming in the schools were not in place at the time that this story takes place.
I really liked this book. It is a true story written from the eyes of a Sephardic Jewish woman from immigrant parents who had polio as a child (in the Bronx). Because the polio epidemic was before I was born, it was really a fascinating look at the impact of the polio epidemic to the American culture and how polio victims were treated. It is also a fascinating, fun look at a family of Sephardic Jews.
The disjointed telling of this true story of a polio victim made took away from the story. The timeline jumped all over, and nuggets of Brenda's famiy life and relatives were thrown in which seem to have no relevance to the story. While it was interesting to read about her and her family's struggles, there was a lot of flotsam thrown in which took away from the book.
Interesting information about Sephardic Jews and a profound description of what is was like to be a child with polio in the 1950's. The isolation, fear, and triumphs were presented well, but the book became boring about 2/3 of the way. I did enjoy reading how both of her parents reacted to her situation.
Sara Cat
It's a memoir, not a novel, and feels like it. An interesting look at being in the polio epidemics in NYC, which is more what the book is about than the cultural piece. Writing is adequate to at times very good, especially toward the end. I'd imagine there is a sequel coming.
I've noted it because the Agudas book club will be reading it for August.

A memoir of growing up in the Bronx, in a Sephardic Turkish family, & of contracting polio at the age of 7. I found the polio aspects of the memoir most interesting, the rest of the book less so.
Cindie Harp
This shook up my preconceptions about all Sephardi families being affectionate -- and really the story was more about Brenda's polio than anything else. Still, an interesting romp about life in the 50's in NYC. And the food descriptions made me drool!
I really liked tis story as it was about Sephardic Jews from Turkey, a group I don't know anything about, and their second generation experience in the Bronx during the 1950's
I learned a great deal about the Sephardic culture and also polio I found it very witty and well written from a young girl's memory.
Lisa Pfeffer
An excellent story of a young girl's strength and determination to walk again after she contracts polio
Very good. About author's early life. Family are Sphardic Jews. Also read fortunes.
I really enjoyed the book

2.5 stars
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