I committed my first academic crime at the age of six. It occurred against a wider criminal background, namely, that of my parents, who had illegally absconded from communist Hungary to New York City via “a vacation” to Vienna and a brief stay in a refugee shelter in Rome.
The crime I can claim as my own begins with the need to learn English. I had learned some Italian in kindergarten in Rome, and some Russian because that was the language of the refugees we were housed with, but at home we spoke Hungarian, and my parents’ English was not great. From a very young age, well before I learned how to read, I had loved memorizing and reciting (Hungarian) poetry. So when we got to America one of the first things my mother bought me was a book of poetry: Shel Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic.