Life can sometimes hinge on the turn of a card - not only the gambler's life but also the lives of those close to him. For Jodi Varon, one fateful turn changed her father's life - propelling her into a search far from home that will lead readers to a new contemplation of family ties and lost cultural legacies. Benjamin Varon never rode a horse and preferred his beef hanging in a cooler, but he still thought of himself as a cattleman - that is, until he disappeared after losing his meat-supply business in a high-stakes poker game. In recalling how a hardscrabble New Yorker sought his fortune in Colorado's cattle country, Jodi Varon also relates a daughter's tragicomic quest to understand and forgive. ""Drawing to an Inside Straight"" is a bittersweet story of growing up in Denver during the 1960s. As Jodi Varon recalls life at home with parents Bennie and Irene - Jews of decidedly different backgrounds, he a Ladino-speaking Sephardi from New York, she an Ashkenazi from Denver's close-knit Jewish community - she tells of a childhood nourished by pireshkes and cronson, hamantashen and challah, and all manner of culinary delights. Against the backdrop of America in the Vietnam era, amid tales of domestic nerve-gas stockpiling, suburban wife-swapping, murder, and suicide, she offers an intriguing look at Sephardic history and culture. Behind Jodi's own story lurks that of Benjamin, who transformed himself from an immigrant kid sneaking into Yankee Stadium to a tough GI to a quixotic dreamer willing to stake his hard-won business in a game of chance. Rather than cast off the mantle of his European past, Bennie simply rewove it into the broader tapestry of the West, where the persistence of his favorite Ladino adage, ""We left on a horse. We came back on a donkey,"" served to remind him of the caprices of fortune that would follow him to that fateful poker game. Jodi's account of her own journey to Spain, in search of her father's lost heritage in Sephardim's Golden Age, helps seal her understanding as it heals wounds left open too long. Jodi Varon's account is an insightful view of what it means to be American without losing one's past to the proverbial melting pot, with its insider's look at Sephardic culture and depictions of Denver's ethnic communities that challenge stereotypes of the Anglo-American West. ""Drawing to an Inside Straight"" is a book that will make an immediate connection with readers - even those whose fathers weren't compulsive gamblers - who struggle with mixed emotions about childhood or are in search of their own roots.
Drawing to an Inside Straight
av Jodi Varon