Category Archives: Autobiography

Fire Road: The Napalm Girl’s Journey through the Horrors of War to Faith, Forgiveness & Peace

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A story full of pain. A story full of hope. A story full of anger. A story full of forgiveness. Does this sound like your life? It certainly sounds like mine! It also sounds (in the extreme!) like the story of Kim Phuc Phan Thi. You may have seen her picture. She’s the famous “napalm girl” whose picture was snapped by a young photographer as she ran naked, screaming, and severely burned down a Dang Trang Vietnam road. The photographer who took the iconic photograph scooped Kim up and rushed her to a nearby hospital where, initially, they refused to treat the girl. After some arm-twisting and showing of credentials, he convinced the hospital to take her in and they arranged her transfer to Saigon. When she arrived, unconscious, at First Children’s Hospital she was deemed hopeless and taken to languish in the morgue.

It is from these horrors that a story of survival, hope, and peace rose like a Phoenix. Her survival from burns was only the beginning of Kim’s remarkable story. Living under the oppressive system of Communism, Kim continued to suffer loss after loss. She had been introduced to the Christian religion but had stopped attending services regularly. She was so despondent that she planned her own death, but somehow she found the will to cry out to God…a simple prayer. With that prayer, and action she took in faith that God had heard her petition, things began to turn around for Kim Phuc.

Her book, Fire Road, tells the remarkable and inspiring story of redemption and grace in Kim’s life. I found myself writing down quotes and thinking of applications to my own life as I read her words. Kim is an inspiring role model. Her story teaches lessons that are hard to forget because they were lived, not just preached. I can’t recommend this book enough!

*I was provided with a complementary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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Filed under Autobiography, Christian, Non-Fiction, women

Deep Under Cover My Secret Life and Tangled Allegiances as a KGB Spy in America

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Jack Barsky died at the age of ten. The REAL Jack Barsky, that is. Albrecht Dittrich assumed the identity of Jack Barsky as a spy for the Soviet Union, and thus another Jack Barsky was ‘born’.

Albrecht Dittrich was an incredibly intelligent and capable young man, attending the university in Jena (East) Germany, when he was recruited by the KGB in the 1970s. His training and career eventually led him to the United States where he worked as a bike messenger before earning a degree and becoming an IT specialist and executive at a major American company…all while being a spy.

His personal life was no less convoluted. He fathered a child out of wedlock, and also married and had another child in Germany, all while living a double life in the United States. Eventually, a marriage of convenience (yes, he was a bigamist) in the U.S. gave Jack Barsky two more children.

Shockingly, when he was called to ‘go home’ by the Soviets (“You must come home, or else you’re dead”) a twist of fate, combined with the love of his infant daughter, compelled him to find a way to unilaterally end his career as a spy and stay in the United States, forging a life for himself and his family pursuing the American Dream.

He succeeded at living a ‘normal’ life until the FBI caught up with him 9 years later. Through another series of miracles, Jack Barsky once again ‘started over’.

Now a U.S. citizen, a relatively new Christian, husband to a young wife, and father to a five-year-old child, Jack Barsky has finally REALLY found the American Dream.

A page-turner with surprising twists, Deep Under Cover is a well-written and fascinating read. Jack Barsky is a living, breathing miracle who has reinvented himself several times and, in the process, seems to have found his genuine SELF.  His is a story of grace, second (third, fourth, and fifth) chances, redemption and, ultimately, love.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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Filed under Action-adventure, Autobiography, Non-Fiction

The Luckiest One by Harkiné Hagopian

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The Luckiest One by Harkiné Pilibosian Hagopian is the memoir of a survivor of the Armenian genocide (circa 1915). The content of this book was transcribed from oral interviews with Harkiné herself. Her grandson, Robert W. Rollings edited the transcripts for readability, but otherwise the story is told in Harkiné’s own words.

Rollings provides “Introduction” and “End Matter” sections that give context to the story. Harkinè is a memorable character who is able (in her 90’s at the time the interviews were conducted) to remember specifics from her childhood and young adulthood as the deportation and subsequent genocide unfolds around her.

Her sister married into a harem to save the Pilibosian family. Harkiné, her father and grandmother live under the protection of the Arab for some time before Harkiné marries (at the age of 14) to escape being married off to another Muslim man.

Through it all, Harkinè shines as a spunky, intelligent, resourceful and “lucky” girl. She immigrates to the United States (Indianapolis, Indiana) and raises five children who go on to give depth to her legacy.

I read this book because I am a friend of Harkiné’s youngest daughter, Mary Hagopian. Robert W. Rollings did an excellent job of setting the stage for the story, including scores of pictures, maps, charts and a family tree to keep track of the interesting characters. I highly recommend this fascinating book!

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Filed under Autobiography, Non-Fiction, Uncategorized