Cover image for Bandit : a daughter's memoir
Title:
Bandit : a daughter's memoir
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Black Cat, 2016.
ISBN:
9780802125637
Physical Description:
301 pages ; 21 cm
Language:
English
Abstract:
"In the summer of 1994, when Molly Brodak was thirteen years old, her father robbed eleven banks, until the police finally caught up with him while he was sitting at a bar drinking beer, a bag of stolen money plainly visible in the backseat of his parkedcar. Dubbed the "Mario Brothers Bandit" by the FBI, he served seven years in prison and was released, only to rob another bank several years later and end up back behind bars. In her powerful, provocative debut memoir, Bandit, Molly Brodak recounts her childhood and attempts to make sense of her complicated relationship with her father, a man she only half knew. At some angles he was a normal father: there was a job at the GM factory, a house with a yard, birthday treats for Molly and her sister. But there were darker glimmers, too-another wife he never mentioned to her mother, late-night rages directed at the TV, the red Corvette that suddenly appeared in the driveway, a gift for her sister. Growing up with this larger-than-life, mercurial man, Brodak's strategy was to "get small" and stay out of the way. In Bandit, she unearths and reckons with her childhood memories and the fracturing impact her father had on their family-and in the process attempts to make peace with the parts of herself that she inherited from this bewildering, beguiling man. Written in precise, spellbinding prose, Bandit is a stunning, gut-punching story of family and memory, of the tragic fallibility of the stories we tell ourselves, and of the contours of a father's responsibility for his children"-- Provided by publisher.
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Book 818.603 BRODAK 1
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Book BIOGRAPHY BRODAK [MOLLY] 1 .CIRCNOTE. ***LIQUID DAMAGED NOTED 04-20-2017 BT***
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Prescott Public Library1Received on 10/4/16

Summary

Summary

"Raw, poetic and compulsively readable. In Molly Brodak's dazzling memoir, Bandit , her eye is so honest, I found myself nodding like I was agreeing with her, sometimes cringing at what she sustained, and laughing--often. I can't wait to buy a copy for everyone I know."--Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help

In the summer of 1994, when Molly Brodak was thirteen years old, her father robbed eleven banks, until the police finally caught up with him while he was sitting at a bar drinking beer, a bag of stolen money plainly visible in the backseat of his parked car. Dubbed the "Mario Brothers Bandit" by the FBI, he served seven years in prison and was released, only to rob another bank several years later and end up back behind bars.

In her powerful, provocative debut memoir, Bandit , Molly Brodak recounts her childhood and attempts to make sense of her complicated relationship with her father, a man she only half knew. At some angles he was a normal father: there was a job at the GM factory, a house with a yard, birthday treats for Molly and her sister. But there were darker glimmers, too--another wife he never mentioned to her mother, late-night rages directed at the TV, the red Corvette that suddenly appeared in the driveway, a gift for her sister. Growing up with this larger-than-life, mercurial man, Brodak's strategy was to "get small" and stay out of the way. In Bandit , she unearths and reckons with her childhood memories and the fracturing impact her father had on their family--and in the process attempts to make peace with the parts of herself that she inherited from this bewildering, beguiling man.

Written in precise, spellbinding prose, Bandit is a stunning, gut-punching story of family and memory, of the tragic fallibility of the stories we tell ourselves, and of the contours of a father's responsibility for his children.


Reviews 3

Kirkus Review

A prizewinning poet's account of her convict father and the impact he had on his family.Brodak (A Little Middle of the Night, 2009) was 7 the first time she stole from a store. Six years later, her father, Joseph, who was conceived in a German concentration camp, was arrested for robbing 11 banks in Michigan. Here, the author examines the tortured relationship she and her family had with her father. A gambling addict, Joseph lived life with greedy amorality. He was already married with children when he met Brodak's mother, but that did not stop him from starting a second family with her. Their relationship was a rocky one; they married and divorced twice. The second and final time they ended their union, Joseph took Brodaks younger sister with him. While he treated her like a princess and spoiled her with fancy clothes and a Corvette, he sometimes sent the angry and confused teen back to Brodak and her mother as punishment, or maybe to loose himself from her care during gambling binges. During what would be the first of her fathers two jail sentences for bank robbery, the author became an expert shoplifter not because it was good or cool but because it was simply a way for her to make money. Later, she realized that it was really a way for her to work through the pattern of theft that destroyed my family. Brodaks story is undeniably compelling, but what makes the book even more fascinating is her in-depth reflection on the gambling habit that drove her father into a life of crime. Maybe gambling is a kind of wound-replay wound-fascination, she writes, because its so obviously unwise that it seems like self-harm. An individual may feel empowered because of the choice involved; but for Brodak, gambling is really a form of self-harm that distracts from the hard business of living and maintaining healthy relationships. An intelligent, disturbing, and profoundly honest memoir. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

Dad robbed banks one summer, Brodak writes tersely. In fact, he robbed 11 and, after being captured, went to prison for seven years. But that's not the end of the story. After his release, he robbed banks again and was sent back to prison. A hardened criminal? Not really. But he was a gambling addict, whose losses were the catalyst for his crimes. And perhaps he was something more: a sociopath, though Brodak isn't altogether sure about this, even while acknowledging that her mother, a therapist, is. Though her father is the central character, the memoir is as much about Brodak and her struggle to know her unknowable father as it is about him. Her prose is straightforward and serviceable, including the occasional arresting turn of phrase; elms with white-painted bottoms are like tube socks on a big leg. But, in the end, it is substance, not style, that makes this thoughtful memoir worth reading.--Cart, Michael Copyright 2016 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

THERE'S NOTHING LIKE the holidays to make you grateful for family ties while also wishing you were related to no one. Fortunately, you needn't look further than the memoir section of your local bookstore to be reminded that, as dysfunctional as your tribe is, someone out there not only has it worse but also took the liberty of publishing the family secrets in a book. Not that memoirists worth their salt take those liberties lightly. In BANDIT: A Daughter's Memoir (Black Cat, paper, $16), Molly Brodak wrestles with the question of whether telling a true story is a form of erasing it, or at least changing it beyond recognition. "I don't want to see these words touching these true things," she writes. "They are all wrong. This whole language I'm using is wrong." In fact she's wrong about that. She's written a good book, and with good reason. In the summer of 1994, when she was 13, her father robbed 11 banks. Called "the Super Mario Brothers bandit" by the F.B.I., because he disguised himself with a fake mustache and newsboy cap that resembled the get-up of the popular video game character, Joseph Brodak served seven years in prison. After his release, he lived "a normal life" for seven more years before he robbed more banks and was sentenced to another 10 years, which he's currently serving. Brodak makes a smart move and gets these facts out of the way at the beginning. Striking as they are, she sees them as almost beside the point. "This is about whatever is cut from the frame of narrative," she says of her story. "The fat remnants, broke bones, gristle, untender bits." Brodak is also a poet, so it makes sense that the prose she employs to process these cuts is often elliptical and fragmented. Her parents married and divorced each other twice, and upon the second split Brodak stayed with her mother while her older sister, for reasons neither of them could entirely figure out, went with their father. This left the author to experience Joseph in glimpses and phases - a vacation here, a birthday party there. This limited exposure remains as much a source of pain as it is of relief, but it may also have provided the emotional distance necessary to write this story. Between prison stints, Joseph lived again with his older daughter, stealing money from her all along the way. By the end of the book, that daughter, who since high school has worked straitlaced jobs in (wait for it) banks, has cut off contact with Joseph; the mother has happily remarried; and it's the author who is visiting and writing to her father in prison in an effort to make sense of the untender bits. "Now," she writes, "it is everyone but me who is finished with him." Carole Firstman's father, the subject of ORIGINS OF THE UNIVERSE AND WHAT IT ALL MEANS (Dzanc, $26.95), may have been a biologist rather than a bank robber, but his eccentricities made him difficult in many of the same ways. Narcissistic, womanizing and socially inept in a manner particular to a certain strain of male academics, Bruce Firstman is renowned for his research on scorpions - a useful metaphor if there ever was one. Within days of his daughter's birth, he is so bothered by her infant noises that he erects a tent in the yard for mother and baby so that he can carry on with his studies inside, undisturbed. (As with Brodak, Firstman's parents would marry and divorce each other twice.) The author is sure her father has a case of undiagnosed Asperger's syndrome, and she struggles to draw lines between quirkiness and neglect. "No, he wasn't exactly cruel, at least not intentionally," she writes. "He just wasn't all that interested in fatherhood. . . . Does this prove him one or the other, either a good or bad father? In isolation, no, I don't think so. But when does the cumulative factor enter the algorithm?" This question - along with a handful of corollaries that ask how you measure a life and, more fundamentally, how you can even begin to fathom the infinite number of random factors that determine anyone's particular existence - propels every page of this strange and strangely dazzling memoir. Firstman's conversational tone proves handy for taking her readers into some heady places, for instance a section filled with mathematical formulas meant to offer a (mostly) tongue-in-cheek lesson on "Quantifying the Quality of Life." This diversion is as weird as it is entertaining and shows just how much Firstman is her father's daughter. She may not burst forth at the Thanksgiving dinner table with unprompted declarations like "The probability of the existence of your individual, unique genome is about one over a googolplex," but she obviously sees herself in the guy. The book's title is a nod to the tenderness that imbues her father's allocutions. "I have so many things I want to tell you . . . about the origins of life and the universe and what it all means," Bruce will say before monologuing about the formation of the Earth and the anatomic development of the living things (for instance, scorpions) upon it. It's a lecture he's delivered to her in both childhood and adulthood, one whose value she's constantly measuring against the fact that her father never attended a graduation ceremony, a school event or a birthday party. "On an intellectual level, I know it's the Asperger's that drives my father's paternal disinterest," Firstman writes. "He's hard-wired this way. He can't help it. On the other hand, relatively newfound medical labels are a weak salve for old emotional wounds." For Jerald Walker, pondering the probability of being born to blind parents who are also members of a segregationist, doomsday church would have been a luxury. As he describes in his memoir, THE WORLD IN FLAMES: A Black Boyhood in a White Supremacist Doomsday Cult (Beacon, $24.95), there was far more to be concerned about, namely the return of Jesus and the coinciding end-time event, which was scheduled to happen in 1975, when he would be 11 years old. Beginning his story when he is 6, Walker recalls a childhood full of hardships and confusions that also engendered a cautious excitement about an afterlife in which he will fly around with lightning bolts and shields. In a sermon to a childhood friend, he gives the rundown on the Great Tribulation, warning of the boils, earthquakes and drought that will besiege the unchosen. Not that he can follow his own logic. "It is really confusing," he writes. "I'm confused all the time." "The World in Flames" is the prequel to Walker's 2010 memoir, "Street Shadows," which recounts the author's flirtation with and eventual rejection of "thug life" on the Chicago streets as a teenager. Readers familiar with that book will experience this one as a detailed origin story fused with a history lesson about the Worldwide Church of God and its charismatic and duplicitous leader, Herbert W. Armstrong, who reschedules the Great Tribulation as necessary. While the title is slightly misleading in that the Walker family belonged to a mostly black congregation and didn't live day to day with the effects of the leader's whitesupremacist beliefs, the book is a devastating testament to the scope of the damage that can be wrought by fanaticism. When Walker passes up a chance to attend a competitive magnet high school for fear that it's Satan's plan, you want to shake him into the kind of rational thinking he's been warned against all his life. When the church becomes embroiled in scandal, Walker's formerly pious older brother feels betrayed enough to begin swerving off the straight and narrow path he's held so dear, and Walker follows close behind. In the end, the author will survive any number of small apocalypses, but his road will be a long one. "You had a one in a googolplex chance of being here," Firstman is reminded again and again. This is a vertiginous, potentially terrifying notion that may help explain the appeal of religious dogma or even a life of crime. So, too, is her observation that "the universe is a swirling mass of atoms forming clumps of various things and then dissolving." If you're apt to entertain such thoughts more than usual this time of year - ruefully, in a haze of tryptophan and alcohol - you're not alone. Well, on second thought, you are. MEGHAN DAUM is the author, most recently, of "The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion."