My New American Life: A Novel

My New American Life: A Novel

by Francine Prose

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Overview

“Francine Prose is a world-classsatirist who’s also a world-class storyteller.”—Russell Banks
 
Francine Prose captures contemporary America at itsmost hilarious and dreadful in My New American Life, a darkly humorousnovel of mismatched aspirations, Albanian gangsters, and the ever-elusiveAmerican dream. Following her New York Times bestselling novels BlueAngel and A Changed Man, Prose delivers the darkly humorous storyof Lula, a twenty-something Albanian immigrant trying to find stability andcomfort in New York City in the charged aftermath of 9/11. Set at the frontlines of a cultural war between idealism and cynicism, inalienable rights andimplacable Homeland Security measures, My New American Life is a movingand sardonic journey alongside a cast of characters exploring what it means tobe American.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061713798
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/08/2012
Series: P.S. Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 1,206,657
Product dimensions: 5.36(w) x 7.84(h) x 0.85(d)

About the Author

Francine Prose is the author of twenty-one works of fiction, including Mister Monkey; the New York Times bestseller Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932; A Changed Man, which won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize; and Blue Angel, a finalist for the National Book Award. Her works of nonfiction include Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife, and the New York Times bestseller Reading Like a Writer. The recipient of numerous grants and honors, including a Guggenheim, a Fulbright, and a Director’s Fellow at the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, she is a former president of PEN American Center and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She lives in New York City.

Hometown:

New York, New York

Date of Birth:

April 1, 1947

Place of Birth:

Brooklyn, New York

Education:

B.A., Radcliffe College, 1968

What People are Saying About This

Ron Carlson

“She’s a perfect observer of American life in the opening decade of the 21st century. . . . Wry . . . witty . . . a book that brims with smart surprises.”

Helen Simonson

“Prose spins the many straws of American culture into a golden tale, shimmering with hilarious, if blistering, satire.”

Michael Dirda

“A fast-moving novel . . . [that] brings together cultural satire, mystery, a psychosexual thriller, and political outrage. . . . Exceptionally entertaining, fun to read in its sentences, incidents, scenes.”

Michiko Kakutani

“A tangy mixture of satire and sentiment. . . . Ms. Prose uses her heroine’s outside status to make a lot of funny . . . observations about the cosseted life of well-to-do Americans.”

Lionel Shriver

“Utterly charming. Savvy about the shady practices of both US immigration authorities and immigrants themselves... Entertaining, light yet not trivial, a joy to read.”

Simon Van Booy

“Prose’s characters in MY NEW AMERICAN LIFE are complex and brilliantly drawn (culturally distinct but without the usual clichés).”

Donna Seaman

“Prose is dazzling in her sixteenth book of spiky fiction, a fast-flowing, bittersweet, brilliantly satirical immigrant story that subtly embodies the cultural complexity and political horrors of the Balkans and Bush-Cheney America.”

Barbara Hoffert

“An illuminating and ultimately upbeat look at America’s immigrant situation that all fiction readers will enjoy.”

Customer Reviews

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My New American Life 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
bookchickdi More than 1 year ago
My New American Life is whip-smart funny. Satire is not always easy to pull off on the written page , and Prose does it amazingly well. Her writing, especially of Lula's thoughts, had me cracking up, like this one: "Lula knew that some Americans cheered every time INS agents raided factories and shoved dark little chicken-packagers into the backs of trucks. She'd seen the guys on Fox News calling for every immigrant except German supermodels and Japanese baseball players to be deported, no questions asked." Lula wants desperately to grab a hold of the American dream, but her job as a nanny to an 17-year-old young man leaves her bored and stuck in the suburbs with no friends and nothing to do. Prose makes you feel her stifling suffocation. When the wanna-be Sopranos Albanians show up and ask her to "hold on to" a gun for them, Lula does as she's asked, even though she knows this could lead to trouble for her and her employer and her deportation. Yet, strangely, she cannot say no to them; and besides, it's a little excitement. I usually identify with at least one of the characters in a novel that I read, but I could not identify with anyone in this book, yet that did not stop me from enjoying it. I live in New York City, a city that runs because of its immigrant population, and this book gave me a new perspective on the people who leave their families behind to start a new life elsewhere. Lula misses her homeland; she cries "for her once-beautiful homeland now in the hands of toxic dumpers and sex traffickers and money launderers. She cried for missing her country, for not missing it, for having nothing to miss. She cried for the loneliness and uncertainty of her life among strangers who could still change her mind and make her go home." All of the characters are interesting: sad sacks Mister Stanley and his friend Don (both divorced and lost), young Zeke (I just wanted to hug him and tell him it will be all right), the Albanians (a riot!) and Lula's friend Dunia, who hits the immigrant lottery by finding a rich man to marry. There are so many fantastic scenes- at the restaurant where Lula gets a celebratory citizenship dinner with Zeke, his dad, Don and his caustic daughter, Lula's date with Alvo, the college trip- all are sharp and memorable. Prose successfully combines the comic and the tragic, and throws in some politics, like Don's work with detainees at Guantanemo. Her portrait of American life soon after 9/11 (through Lula's eyes) is vivid and thought-provoking.
SusanMelinda More than 1 year ago
Surprise! Surprise! Francine Prose isn't a literary snobwriter after all. Who woulda thunk? "My New American Life" is breezy, funny, thoughtful -- a good summer time read. I swore I'd never tackle Prose again after "Blue Angel." "My New American Life" reads like a morality "play" on middle-class American values as seen through the eyes of a pert and educated twenty-six year old Albanian nanny. It's "funny" (like Andy Kaufman and Carol Kane were on the sitcom"Taxi). The book reads like a first novel which, given Ms. Prose accomplishments, is quite an accomplishment and refreshing. I think of Einstein suggesting, "Simple but no simplier." Cheers to Ms. Prose. I felt like I was in the hands of a master when reading her book.
Man_Martin More than 1 year ago
In the final scene our heroine, who cannot drive, is stuck in traffic in an almost certainly stolen SUV, crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, leaving behind a home where she cannot stay, but where they aren't ready for her to leave, towards an apartment where she'll be able to stay - at most - a few months. Lula is an Albanian emigre during the presidency of Bush the Younger post 911, precisely at the time when America was at its most xenophobic. After working illegally as a waitress she lands work as a part time nanny to the teenage son of an investment banker abandonned by his mentally ill wife. Things seem to be going well - or as well as Lula could hope - when three of her countrymen show up and ask her to hold onto a gun for them. An immigrant perspective on the United States provides an ideal satiric vantage point, as writers have long known. Prose supplies a nice additional touch by making Lula herself a story teller. At the behest of her employer and the lawyer who's working to secure her a greencard - two liberals of the sort naively eager to hear tales of hardship - Lula writes "true stories" of Albania, fabricated patchworks of history and fairytale. It's the sort of thing that happens everyday to people of all ethnicities asked to "perform" their identities. Lula spins out improbable accounts in writing as well as conversation, withholding the real but equally improbable truth. The novel is funny, charming, and well-written, and Prose keeps us dangling at the edges of things that don't quite happen: affairs that don't quite come off, dysfunctional families that manage to stay on just this side of functionality, guns the fire, but not fatally. And truth to tell, the experience is at times frustrating for the reader - I found myself longing for something more, something richer, something greater at stake, but then at the end - unaccountably, to me - the novel comes together in an entirely fulfilling way. In the last scene of Lula driving across a bridge, I realized that Prose's formless story catches the essence a New American Life, of American Life, and maybe Life in General: hopping from stone to stone, always unfinished, always provisional, making it up as we go along.
FeatheredQuillBookReviews More than 1 year ago
Francine Prose has been a writer of many incredible stories from fiction to nonfiction, to Young Adult novels. With this newest project, this fantastic author offers a dark comic novel that covers everything from immigration to all facets of American culture. The lead character is Lula, a twenty-six-year-old Albanian woman who lies in order to obtain her visa to come to New York City, leaving behind her birthplace - Post-Communist Albania. Lula is fortunate enough to become a caretaker for a teenage boy, which allows her to relocate to a New Jersey suburb. Moving in with Mister Stanley - a college professor who has turned into an investment banker - and his child, Zeke, Lula takes on the role of helper and watcher to the young man. Mister Stanley works with his friend - a hotshot lawyer named Don Settebello - as they try to help Lula with her legal status and win her a work permit so that she can stay in America. Lula, although bored a bit with her job of full-time caretaker, finds herself face-to-face with her own countrymen, as they pull up outside her door in a brand new Lexus SUV. They identify themselves as friends of Lula's cousin and ask that she take care of a handgun for them. Which she does - not only to back up her Albanian "friends" but also because she finds herself unbelievably attracted to Alvo - an Albanian who leads this band of men. As Lula begins to find herself being stalked - and hoping immensely that her stalker is Alvo - Lula tries her best to soak up as much American knowledge as she can. This novel not only addresses the subjects of immigration and the politics that came from the first post 9/11 years, but also offers an in-depth look into the passion of Lula, a person who wishes to live a life that involves humor, a bit of danger, and a way to grab on to her American dream. This story shows how a person wishes desperately to become an American and goes through the struggle of becoming a stranger in a strange world. Not only does this author do a wonderful job of explaining life with just the right amount of humor and drama combined, but she also offers a true study of post 9/11 America. Quill Says: Although a little slow in places, many readers will find this an interesting book and a wonderful overview of achieving the 'American dream.'
kaionvin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
With one glance at the glossy cover girl and the bombastic block letters, my (awesome, ex-Commie Russian) friend issued "So it's meant to be ironic..." as the whole one-sentence summary dismissal of My New American Life. Clearly I need to take a class on the Judging Books By Their Covers* from her, 'cause I found out those words pretty much summarized everything about Francine Prose's novel, including how very poorly it's executed . Post-9/11 immigration politics, condenscention towards the "third world", and the malaise of the American Dream should provide ample satire fodder for Prose: Unfortunately: a) The characters are mostly obnoxious exaggerations, and their actions mere conveniences which provide no framework for any real social criticism. b). The novel inexplicably set in 2004 (neither long enough ago to use clarifying hindsight nor present enough to tap into any cultural momentum) c) Instead of real satire, Prose fills the novel with unfunny** "in Soviet Albania" jokes. *with a weekend symposium on The Usage of the Cutting Ellipsis **added adjective to suck up to teacher of above mentioned classes
bookchickdi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My New American Life is whip-smart funny. Satire is not always easy to pull off on the written page , and Prose does it amazingly well. Her writing, especially of Lula's thoughts, had me cracking up, like this one:"Lula knew that some Americans cheered every time INS agents raided factories and shoved dark little chicken-packagers into the backs of trucks. She'd seen the guys on Fox News calling for every immigrant except German supermodels and Japanese baseball players to be deported, no questions asked."Lula wants desperately to grab a hold of the American dream, but her job as a nanny to an 17-year-old young man leaves her bored and stuck in the suburbs with no friends and nothing to do. Prose makes you feel her stifling suffocation. When the wanna-be Sopranos Albanians show up and ask her to "hold on to" a gun for them, Lula does as she's asked, even though she knows this could lead to trouble for her and her employer and her deportation. Yet, strangely, she cannot say no to them; and besides, it's a little excitement.I usually identify with at least one of the characters in a novel that I read, but I could not identify with anyone in this book, yet that did not stop me from enjoying it. I live in New York City, a city that runs because of its immigrant population, and this book gave me a new perspective on the people who leave their families behind to start a new life elsewhere.Lula misses her homeland; she cries"for her once-beautiful homeland now in the hands of toxic dumpers and sex traffickers and money launderers. She cried for missing her country, for not missing it, for having nothing to miss. She cried for the loneliness and uncertainty of her life among strangers who could still change her mind and make her go home."All of the characters are interesting: sad sacks Mister Stanley and his friend Don (both divorced and lost), young Zeke (I just wanted to hug him and tell him it will be all right), the Albanians (a riot!) and Lula's friend Dunia, who hits the immigrant lottery by finding a rich man to marry.There are so many fantastic scenes- at the restaurant where Lula gets a celebratory citizenship dinner with Zeke, his dad, Don and his caustic daughter, Lula's date with Alvo, the college trip- all are sharp and memorable.Prose successfully combines the comic and the tragic, and throws in some politics, like Don's work with detainees at Guantanemo. Her portrait of American life soon after 9/11 (through Lula's eyes) is vivid and thought-provoking.
triscuit on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of my favourite American writers, Prose perfectly captures the voices of her characters. Read this to get inside the protaganists' head - Lula is a 36 year old Albanian living in NYC with a man and son abandoned by their wife/mother. She is trying to make a new life in the US and we get to see what life is like in Albania and her take on life in America.
BillPilgrim on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lula is an immigrant from Albania living in NYC, who takes a job in New Jersey as the live-in nanny for a high school senior. The job is not that demanding. The boy drives her to a health food store every day after school, where they buy frozen hamburgers and pizza which she then microwaves for his dinner. The father is a wall-street trader whose mentally-ill wife left on Christmas eve, apparently moving to Sweden. Lula is home alone during the day, and one fateful day just after she gets her immigration status adjusted and is given a work visa, she is unexpectedly visited by three young Albanian men who ask her to hold onto a gun for safe keeping. For some reason she agrees to do this for them.The book is very funny. Lula is a wonderful character, whose point of view about American life and her life back home in Albanian struck me with just the right attitude and sardonic wit.
RandyMetcalfe on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lula is an economic migrant. She entered the USA on a tourist visa ostensibly to visit ¿relatives¿ from her native Albania. But in fact her plan, all along, has been to get work, whatever work she can find without a green card, and then figure out some way of perpetuating her new American life. She succeeds, in her way, despite numerous obstacles and an encroaching balkanization of life in New York and surrounding environs. Near the end of her tether and her visa, Lula is taken in as a sort of au pair / governess / nanny to the teenage son of an emotionally wounded ex-academic, Stanley, who now works in the City. Stanley¿s wife slipped into mental illness and out of he and his son¿s life one Christmas eve and with her she took much of their reason for living. They exist now in a kind of after-life, the entombed suburbs of New Jersey. Lula, one way or another, is the new blood that may bring them back to life.Francine Prose is a deliberate writer. I can only think that she must have chosen an Albanian refugee/immigrant narrator dismayed at the fear-induced paranoia of Bush-Cheney America for a reason. Does she want her reader to hear echoes of the 1997 Barry Levinson comedy Wag The Dog? Maybe it¿s just me. Certainly the stories bear no resemblance other than Lula¿s habit of writing ¿true¿ stories ¿ a memoir that her high-powered immigration lawyer informs her will very much help her case ¿ which liberally borrow from Balkan folktales and literature. And perhaps because these events take place in the heartland of The Sopranos (a television programme that is referenced a number of times in the novel), it makes sense to introduce a trio of gangsters (Albanians in this case, not Italians) in a shiny black Lexus who inveigle their way into Lula¿s dull life in New Jersey and eventually connect or re-connect her with the wider family of Albanians coursing through the veins of America.If you are getting the impression that this novel doesn¿t quite know what it wants to be¿political satire, immigrant biography, bildungsroman, chicklit, state-of-America report¿then you are on the right track. It is always fine writing from Prose, but here it doesn¿t add up to a unified whole.
Brennagh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Francine Prose dazzles the reader with her finely honed satiric skills in My New American Life, in which she tells the story of Lulu, an Albanian immigrant who arrives in America during the second Bush-Cheny term. While in New York on a tourist visa, Lulu works illegally at a mojita bar where the wait staff takes bets on who will be the first to be deported. With her visa about to expire, Lulu lands a sinecure when she is hired as a companion for a high school senior whose father does not want him to be home alone in a New Jersey suburb. Both the father, a former academic now working on Wall Street, and son are depressed because the wife and mother has developed mental illness and runaway from the family. Lulu speaks English fluently and by playing a little loose with her family history convinces the father that she is refugee of the Balkan wars. He has his friend, a prominent immigration attorney, procure her a work visa. So life is going smoothly until three Albanian tough guys come to visit Lulu one day. This is a very funny book. After growing up under the most repressive Communist regime in the world, Lulu¿s view of American culture¿from organic grocery stores to college admissions¿is hilarious. Prose¿s delicious mix of satire, well developed characters, and galloping narrative kept me turning the pages very late at night. Although the book addresses serious issues regarding immigration and government restrictions, it is never didactic.
ShawnSorensen43 More than 1 year ago
Nobody is spared satire's jarring wink in "My New American Life", necessitating a literary group hug of all the characters by the book's final pages. Just about everything here put a knowing smile on my face, yet there were so many surprises by the end. Lula, our twenty-something protagonist, is both smart enough to bring much of her Albanian survival skills to the U.S., while too naive to look objectively at the American legal system and her bland yet benevolent employer. It leads to a huge amount of humor and a more compassionate look at everyone in this tiny social stratosphere. I may have wanted less social commentary, more logic and more action, but then again I might be too slow of a reader. "My New American Life" does what the best novels do - provide us a fun ride, with our eyes wide open at the end.
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