Concepcion: An Immigrant Family’s Fortunes

Riverhead. Oct. 2021. 320p. ISBN 9780593086087. $28. MEMOIR
Journalist Samaha (Never Ran, Never Will) presents a wide-angle view of immigration, particularly showing how its history, economics, and culture have shaped the lives of his Filipino American family in the United States. Samaha was raised mainly in the States, where he witnessed the struggles of his mother and other relatives. In this memoir, he wonders “what to do with the knowledge that [his] comfort has come at the expense of [his] elders.” He tries to understand why his family chose to immigrate and focuses with loving detail on the stories of several family members. He also explores the larger history of human migration and presents a moderately detailed history of the Philippines as far back as the Age of Exploration. In this broad view of immigration, Samaha’s narrative jumps in time and between family members; at times, it’s disorienting, but it serves well his greater storytelling purposes. The narrative shines when Samaha details the life of his grandmother, who stayed with various relatives at different points in time, redefining the meaning of home.
VERDICT Samaha’s memoir of his family’s experience is a clear, moving, and powerful rumination on what it means to be an immigrant. Recommended for biography readers or for those wanting to read about the experiences of one immigrant family.
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