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White on Black

Born with cerebral palsy in 1960s Russia, Ruben Gallego spent his childhood in appallingly negligent Soviet institutions where nurses ”demanded only one thing of me: that I ask for as little help as possible.” In White on Black, this series of vignettes, he recalls an abusive caretaker and his first taste of pineapple with the same unaffected prose and remarkable restraint. Of his grandfather — the Communist Party general secretary who abandoned him in an orphanage — Gallego simply writes, ”I’ll never understand him.” While abrupt shifts from first to third person and past to present are sometimes jarring, Gallego has produced a harrowing and graceful memoir that consistently emphasizes empowerment and endurance over self-pity.

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