Book Review: ‘Fish Eyes for Pearls: A Magical Realism Memoir’ by Masha Savitz

May 11, 2018 Updated: October 8, 2018

Artist and documentary filmmaker Masha Savitz recently released her debut book, “Fish Eyes for Pearls: A Magical Realism Memoir.” This “experimental memoir,” as the author has categorized it, is a journey that delves into understandings of aesthetics, memory, relationships, and predestination. Its unique structure redefines what literary nonfiction can be.

Savitz is perhaps best known for her eye-opening documentary “Red Reign: The Bloody Harvest of China’s Prisoners,” which exposes the systemic practice of forced organ harvesting perpetrated by the Chinese communist regime against adherents of the peaceful spiritual practice of Falun Gong. Her experience making the film is but one of numerous experiences recalled in “Fish Eyes for Pearls.”

After traversing this tapestry of wonderfully told stories, woven in such a way that is almost impossible to stop reading, one will understand the author, yes, but more so a sense of the often forgotten richness and mystery of life that exists for everyone if only we have the wisdom to see it.

From one episode to the next, Savitz guides the reader through time and space, dropping him or her in contrasting settings and circumstances, providing a visceral experience of scents, colors, and emotions. 

The book is best summed up by the Buddhist proverb that Savitz quotes in her pages:

An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle but will never break.

When asked about her inspiration for writing “Fish Eyes for Pearls,” Savitz explained: “I had finished the documentary “Red Reign” in 2013, did another screenplay, … and was trying to decide on my next project. …The project that seemed to have the most energy was an old file of prose writing that was a screenplay [but one] that I could not wrangle into the rigid structure of a screenplay. I would get so frustrated trying to stay in this particular form that I just started writing freestyle.”

“The book’s nontraditional style was born from a need to match form and content. This is a story of an artist who is always doing just that—so it is an unusual form. … But it is an authentic voice of an artist, and this is her (my) story.”

“Fish Eyes for Pearls” is available now.

‘Fish Eyes for Pearls: A Magical Realism Memoir’
Masha Savitz
O’Shan Press
442 pages; paperback, $15.18

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