The Fortune Teller's Kiss
There was always the incantation: "Whoever wishes you harm, may harm come to them!" And just in case that didn't work, there were garlic and cloves to repel the Evil Eye--or, better yet, the dried foreskin from a baby boy's circumcision, ground to a fine powder. But whatever precautions Brenda Serotte was subjected to, they were not enough. Shortly before her eighth birthday, in the fall of 1954, she came down with polio--painfully singled out in a world already marked by differences. Her bout with the dreaded disease is at the heart of this poignant and heartbreakingly hilarious memoir of growing up a Sephardic Jew among Ashkenazi neighbors in the Bronx. This was a world of belly dancers and fortune tellers, shelter drills and vast quantities of Mediterranean food; a world of staunchly joined and endlessly contrary aunts and uncles, all drawn here in loving, merciless detail. The Fortune Teller's Kiss is a heartfelt tribute to a disappearing culture and a paean to the author's truly quirky clan, especially her beloved champion, her father. It is also a deft and intimate cultural history of the Bronx fifty years ago and of its middle-class inhabitants, their attitudes toward contagious illness, womanly beauty, poverty, and belonging. Brenda Serotte is a poet and an adjunct professor at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Her poetry and prose have appeared in numerous publications, such as Atlanta Review, Kit-Kat Review, Quarter after Eight: A Journal of Prose and Commentary, and Fourth Genre, from which her chapter "Contagious" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.