Review of Why Is Everybody Yelling?: Growing Up in My Immigrant Family

Why Is Everybody Yelling?: Growing Up in My Immigrant Family
by Marisabina Russo; illus. by the author
Middle School, High School    Farrar    240 pp.    g
10/21    978-0-374-30383-9    $19.99

In graphic memoir form, Russo depicts her childhood in Queens, New York, from 1957–1967. “When I was a little girl, I took Catholicism very seriously…Despite the fact that my relatives spoke Yiddish, ate herring, and drank seltzer, it never occurred to me that I might actually be Jewish.” Her divorced mother, who “became a Catholic when she lived in Italy during the war,” has her own complicated relationship with the Church — and with her Jewish mother and sisters; with Marisabina’s father; and with her two sons, Marisabina’s half-brothers. The author’s dream was “to become a nun so that I could live a calm and orderly life far from the fermisht tummel [Yiddish for ‘mixed-up commotion,’ per a footnote] of my own family.” She instead became a prolific picture-book creator (Waiting for Hannah, rev. 9/89; Sophie Sleeps Over, rev. 3/14; and many others) and wrote about her family’s experiences during WWII in the moving nonfiction picture books Always Remember Me (rev. 3/05) and I Will Come Back for You (rev. 9/11). This snapshot of her formative years (including middle-school dances, the Beatles, and JFK’s assassination) is focused squarely on her idiosyncratic family members’ traits and foibles at that time, with fascinating details of their pasts occasionally and gradually revealed. For example, Marisabina’s noodge-y mom had received a medal for bravery for her work with the partisans during WWII. Copious panels, with dialogue that spills out from them, depict day-to-day life in color and interspersed flashbacks in black and white, providing an unvarnished look at one complicated, opinionated, and ­personality-filled family.

From the November/December 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons University and a BA from Oberlin College.

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