Dam Foolishness & Other Recollections

By Wided Khadraoui

Dam Foolishness & Other Recollections
By Raff Ellis
Cune Press, 2011

“Dam Foolishness & Other Recollections” is Raff Ellis’ love letter to small town America. The short stories, occasionally overlapping in a seamless narrative, are based on the author’s life. Ellis begins in Carthage, New York, a quaint setting that evokes sentiments of small town life, even for those who have never left the city. The stories are charming, full of adventure, and, most importantly, are universal. While Ellis’ Lebanese heritage plays a part in the underlining narrative, it neither dominates nor excludes the reader; in fact, his background only becomes apparent in the stories about his stint in the army.

Ellis’ writing style is conversational, relaxed, and easy to follow.  His short stories range from his own (mis) adventures, to tales of childhood acquaintances, to his army service and business career. Ellis’ book reflects a full life of one who has fulfilled the ‘American dream.’ The idea of second-generation immigrants fully engaged in the American experience is a constant theme in the book. Rather than focusing on differences, Ellis brings out the commonalities of the human experience: childhood adventures, work-place annoyances, parental grievances, issues of money, and belonging. Ellis shows the way home varies from person to person, but it is in many ways ordained: “I’d tell anyone who asked what kind of name Ellis was – ‘it’s Lebanese!’ Thanks to you, Uncle Sam, I had come home.”

This review appeared in Al Jadid, Vol. 18, no. 66

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