ILLUSIONS OF MEMORY

 

Illusions of Memory is a series of “memoir fiction” (related life-based stories, dreams and fantasies organized into novel-like structures) touching on Jewish, Italian American, but above all Mexican/Chicano, Central American and Puerto Rican themes. Books are grouped in the chronological order, or cycle, of the events related in them. Two more books are scheduled for publication this year.

Read Marc Zimmerman's essay "Why I Write What I Write"

"Zimmerman demonstrates his notable gifts as a writer of fictional memoir keenly sensitive to the vital socio-cultural nuances and ethno-communal borders his stories cross, explore, and illuminate."
Roberto Márquez, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor Emeritus of Latin American & Caribbean Studies, Mount Holyoke College.
 
"Zimmerman’s work includes some stories that are …[among] the best that literature can offer.”
Antonio Zavala, journalist and author of  Pale Yellow Moon.
Read two Spanish language Stories / Cuentos of Marc Zimmerman's
Illusions of Memory series online at Literal Magazine and ElBeiSMan.

Overviews 1939 - 2017

Read Antonio Zavala's overview of Marc Zimmerman's memoir fiction writing in El BeiSMan.

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Stores of Winter (1940s-1960s)

ISBN-976701944

Three stories of childhood and a Jewish-American tragic-comedy framed by two stories of not-so-innocents abroad in the 1960s: These are winter tales stored, life moments storied, fictions sometimes lived, from the darkness through his own looking glass sometimes darkly, by a critic-theorist who began as a playwright and narrator, who always sought heat and light, and who has now decided to bring forth illuminations of his fragmented and obscured imaginary - these tales of winter discontent from the near tail end of his winter years.

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The Italian Daze (1950s-2016)

Notes of a Lost Traveler

ISBN-9781976242571

The Italian American and Italian connections of a Jewish American in the course of his wandering life. The book opens with a catalog of Italian foods, cultural actors, heroes and villains, etc., culminating with a litany of Italian and Jewish Americans. Next come four parts reviewing early loves, travels with an Italian American wife, and subsequent encounters. Depicting key Italian locales, the book includes some of the most acute Italian paradoxes, including Fascism, the Holocaust, the mafia, possible afro-phobia, and recent turns in Italian politics. A final coda portrays additional Italian encounters, a series of public demonstrations, and our aging hero’s final dream of being lost and dazed in the maze that is Rome and Italy. 

“A haunting, yet comic procession of Italians …pursued in every direction, … [but] never found.” Enrico De Vivo, Italian critic, in L’Indice dei LIbri

Reviewed by Fred Gardaphe at ytali.com.

The Italian Daze was also published in Italy under the title La penisola non trovata. For those who read Italian, it was reviewed by Enrico De Vivo and prefaced by Allesandro Carrera.

An English translation of Enrico De Vivo's review cab be found at El BeiSMan.

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Cycle I: 1939 - 1981

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Genesis (1939-1958)
Seeds of Being in the Early Years of a Jersey Jewish American

ISBN-978-0-915745-34-0

A portrait of a would-be artist as a young middle-class Jewish American living in the Newark/Elizabeth shadows of New York—his first memories, his summer and school days, his family, friends, and early loves, along with the impact of Holocaust, Cold War, and McCarthyism, the Rosenberg Case, and the founding of Israel. Mel’s loss of God and community, his awakening to jazz and writing, to African, Italian, and other “Americans” around him all emerge as the book evokes memory’s magic moments and the seeds they plant in our lives.

"In Genesis, Marc Zimmerman, born in Newark and raised in Elizabeth, New Jersey, presents a collection of his childhood memories within a Jewish family, where father and mother work tirelessly in their restaurant. Within his loneliness at an early age, he faces several conflicts asking himself deep questions that lead him down paths that take him away from his Jewish world and opening the way to other minority groups, reaching the conclusion that the human race is only one with different experiences, creeds and stories. Interesting to see the development of this Jewish boy who from his earliest years questions the world around him and himself." - Samuel Soler, Quebradillas, PR. First public reaction to Genesis by reader. 8/8/2020

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Two Ways West (1958-1961)

ISBN-9780915745302

A father, a son, two stories making one. The first text is a Jewish-American tragi-comedy, dealing with the rise and fall of Sam Weisman,a New Jersey restaurant owner whose gambling addiction leads to a break with family members and forces his departure from his hometown and business on a one-way trip to L.A. The second is a coming of age narrative, as Sam’s son Mel takes his own road from New England to L.A. and the San Francisco Bay area, seeking friends and lovers until he finds a way that for him marks and makes all the difference. Representing countless Jewish-Americans and others who moved from the east coast to California in the 1950s and 60s, this book includes characters, incidents and insights that evoke a past period and project readers to our living present.

"I've just finished reading your book Two Ways West today. I really liked that combination of chronicle, personal history and fiction, but you know I have a predilection for this kind of book. The portrait of the father, who I assume is yours… is the most moving thing I have read
lately. Bravo! How fortunate to meet Gardner, the author of that marvel that is “Fat City”, to listen to jazz in the old Blackhawk of San Francisco, places that I dreamed of in my adolescence. The anecdote of the heroin addict who interrupts you while you’re with his
doña is a beautiful ending - not at all sordid - for a book that has so much to do with tenderness and innocence."

Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá, outstanding Puerto Rican novelist
and chronicler--author of The Renunciation, Cortijo’s Wake, and
several other books still awaiting published translation.
MZ’s translation of an email to him 6 de Oct. 2020

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No Light From Heaven (1961-1966)

ISBN-9781951088101

To misquote Tolstoy, "Every unhappy marriage is unhappy in its own way." So it goes in Marc Zimmerman's No Light From Heaven, which tells of his protagonist's marriage to the passionate, beautiful, charismatic and willful Marlena Rienzi, an Italian-American woman of the 1950s who rejects the stereotypical roles that others wish her to play and lives out the fulfillment of her desires until, in the 1960s, she comes to see the marriage as a cage out of which she must break free. What emerges is a gripping narrative combining experience and imagination, a story evoking the compulsion and heartbreak of relationships that many have come to know.

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The Border Trilogy 1966-1972

"Zimmerman's long involvement with Latino and Latin American concerns has given him many stories to tell. His book captures the the melancholic, magical moments that borders create."

Carolina Rivera Escamilla, Salvadoran/Los Angeles author of ...after...

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Lines on the Border

ISBN-9781545439739

Somewhere between short story collection and novel, this book portrays the evolution of Ben, a young and confused Jewish-American, through his interactions with friends, lovers, and others on and beyond the San Diego-Tijuana crossing point. Failed romances, journeys south, moments of sexual and colonial exploitation, and repeated errors tell of an uneven search for genuine contact and understanding. Written with humor, irony and a feel for border pain, Lines on the Border is a gift for both fiction lovers and those interested in Mexican border themes long before the current deportation raids and cries of "Build the wall".

Read a review by Marta E. Sanchez, Professor Emeritus, U. of California, San Diego.

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Amores Fronterizos

Key stories from Lines on the Border now available in this Spanish language edition.

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Sandino on the Border

ISBN-9781722660802

Marc Zimmerman's sequel to Lines on the Border centers on his protagonist Ben's relationship to Helena, a Nicaraguan woman, and her search for personal and professional growth in the context of the Central American struggle during the Cold War on the U.S.-Mexico border and beyond, all in the shadow of Nicaragua's national hero, César Agusto Sandino. Sandino on the Border tells a new story of the Americas, the Sandinista Revolution and border life. The book's multi-voiced narrative recalls Faulkner but also evokes Fitzgerald and Hemingway even as it relates to recent discursive modes representing the transnational conflicts and relations which mark our time.

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La Dolce Vita on the Northern Side

ISBN-97817030956232

In this final book of his Border Trilogy, Marc Zimmerman shows his protagonist exploring his city as he seeks connections in the midst of growing civil rights and anti-war struggles. Ben’s first worlds are Jewish-, Italian-, and then Afro-American before they become ever more Mexican, Latino/a, and Latin American as he visits theaters, concert and lecture halls, community centers, jazz and dance, happy hour, night and after-hour clubs, the piano bars, the pickup spots and
picket lines, the bar, house and other party sites—all the settings which he and others can enjoy on and off stage, as they live the“sweet life” of their time.

"This fine collection projects a journey of personal changes occurring to many during and beyond a crucial time and place in the U.S. and wider world. An impressive achievement—and great read!" - Roberto Márquez, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor Emeritus of Latin American & Caribbean Studies, Mount Holyoke College

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“Una especie de bildungsroman judío-estadounidense, ambientado en el sur de California. Sobre amoríos fallidos, estas historias también capturan un momento de transición en la historia y la cultura de los EE.UU. La frontera es una zona de división, pero también la conexión entre lo anglo y lo latino; Estados Unidos y México (y el Tercer Mundo); los años sesenta radicales comenzando a decaer y los setenta que surgen justo en el horizonte”. John Beverley, Distinguido Profesor Emeritus, U. of Pittsburgh, autor de Against Literature and Subalternity and Representation.


“Todos somos imperfectos y vulnerables; es parte de nuestra humanidad. Con el transcurrir de los años ..., cuando la superación de múltiples experiencias atravesadas deberían habernos endurecido la piel, las limitaciones y la humana siempre vulnerabilidad se tornan, sin embargo, más evidentes y presentes. Asumirlas sin ambages es uno de los méritos indiscutibles de ésta obra de memoria ficción”. Ángel Quintero Rivera, Profesor, Universidad de Puerto Rico, Recinto Río Piedras. Autor de Salsa, sabor y control y Cuerpo y cultura.

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Managua, Mon Amour (Nevermore) (1969-1981)

 

Both epic and personal, Marc Zimmerman's latest work is a novel memoir novel

of thwarted ambitions, conflict, and heartbreak.

 

Zimmerman's new book tells how his divorced Jewish American protagonist, Mel, marries Lena, a brilliant Central American activist-intellectual and endangers his academic career. He and Lena participate in anti-war, anti-Fascist and pro-Latino rights struggles; both join in Nicaragua’s anti-somocista movement, while Lena continues on her academic path and Mel fights to keep his intellectual calling alive even as he fights against Franquista executions, Mexican worker exploitation, sexual abuse, and drug-dealing gang violence. Breaking up and then joining up again, Lena and Mel work in the Sandinista Revolution, only to separate again, with Mel finding work in a Cuban refugee camp and finally winning a university home in a journey that painfully ends his closest human relationship.

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Note: The author has prepared a glossary to help the reader identify many of the people mentioned in Managua Mon Amour (Nevermore), as well as many of the intellectually challenging terms and theories inevitable to the story he has had to tell. Readers may find more objective information by using Google or Wikipedia. But we try to present the materials here not as they were but as Mel and sometimes Lena see and understand them.
 

Click on the PDF icon to download the glossary.

Cycle II: 1981 - ??

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The Short of it All (1980s-2017)

Dreams and Scenes of Memoir Fiction

ISBN-9781986065597

With a gentle tip of his hat to Kafka, Marc Zimmerman presents brief dreams and dreamlike scenes that have emerged in the author's pursuit of memoir fiction over the past several years. Some perhaps at least seem to be trivial, while others are clearly more; but all of them, taken together, achieve an elusive but ultimate depth. Spanning the years from his boyhood memories to the years following his retirement, the stories illuminate a life as a Jewish-American and a human being.

Read more about The Short of it All at The California Aggie.

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Also available in the Spanish language edition Cuán alta la luna

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Read Ángel G. Quintero Rivera's review of the Spanish language edition at 80grados.

Read Luis Alejandro Ordóñez' review of the Spanish language edition at goodreads. 

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Martín and Marvin (1981-2005)

ISBN-9781530914999

Martín and Marvin's stories center on Martín Klein, a Chicago-based Jewish Mexican, his friendships and love affairs, his family and artistic obsessions, and his travels and misadventures. But the book is especially about Martín's relationship Marvin, a Jewish-American Latin Americanist - their points in common, their differences and their ties to the Latin American worlds they encounter. Blending comedy, history, philosophy and pathos, the book's six stories and a prelude combine to form an offbeat, de-centered novel (a "novel novel") exploring Chicago's Latino emergence and the nature of friendship in our world.

Read the reviews by José Ángel N. and Antonio Zavala.

Read reviews by Ellen McCracken, Prof. Comparative Lit. U. of California Santa Barbara and Stephanie Cordero, student, U. de Puerto Rico Mayaguez.

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