On Borrowed Words: A Memoir of Language

Front Cover
Penguin, 2002 - Biography & Autobiography - 272 pages
7 Reviews
Yiddish, Spanish, Hebrew, and English-at various points in Ilan Stavans's life, each of these has been his primary language. In this rich memoir, the linguistic chameleon outlines his remarkable cultural heritage from his birth in politically fragile Mexico, through his years as a student activist and young Zionist in Israel, to his present career as a noted and controversial academic and writer.

Along the way, Stavans introduces readers to some of the remarkable members of his family-his brother, a musical wunderkind; his father, a Mexican soap opera star; his grandmother, who arrived in Mexico from Eastern Europe in 1929 and wrote her own autobiography. Masterfully weaving personal reminiscences with a provocative investigation into language acquisition and cultural code switching, On Borrowed Words is a compelling exploration of Stavans's search for his place in the world.

"Stavans's Mexico . . . is a treacherous but vivid world seen through the eyes of a gifted child; his subsequent encounter with America makes the New World seem-astonishingly-new." (James Atlas, author of Bellow: A Biography)

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Review: On Borrowed Words: A Memoir of Language

User Review  - Rochelle - Goodreads

As a North of the border American who moved to Mexico 14 years ago, I found Ilan Stavans' account, written as loosely linked chapters, of his reverse journey fascinating. Like Conrad and Nabokov who ... Read full review

Review: On Borrowed Words: A Memoir of Language

User Review  - Goodreads

This book put me to sleep time and again..... Read full review

About the author (2002)

Ilan Stavans is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Latino Literature Prize, among other honors. Stavans is Lewis Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College.

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