Picks and Pans Review: Twelve Years

updated 06/22/1981 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/22/1981 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Joel Agee

The author's mother divorced James Agee, the late film critic and writer, in 1941 and later married an expatriate German scenarist. After World War II the couple took Joel, who was 8, and their baby, Stefan, from Mexico to East Germany. As Joel grew up in that society, he read widely and wrote poems. He was a desultory student, tried bricklaying, was rejected by a music conservatory and finally caught on as a shipyard laborer. Many survivors of Nazism ardently believed in Marxism, and they were dedicated to making it work, Agee writes. But by the time his mother and stepfather separated and his mother took the children back to America, Joel, then 20, was happy to come home. This oddly beautiful, affecting autobiography is rich in detail and personal revelations. It is also a cross-cultural document of substance. (Farrar, Straus &Giroux, $14.95)

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