Essential reading for anyone interested in justice or memoir.

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LIFE AFTER DEATH

Exceptional memoir by the most famous of the West Memphis Three.

In 1993, Echols (Almost Home, 2005) was convicted, along with Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr., in the case of the sadistic sex murders and mutilations of three young boys in the woods around their hometown of West Memphis, Ark. The state’s case was based almost entirely on the confession wrung out of Misskelley, who, writes the author, had the “intellect of a child” and who recanted soon afterward. Witnesses’ testimonies to Echols' “demonic” character sealed the defendants’ fates. Baldwin and Misskelley each received life sentences; Echols, perceived to be the ringleader of an alleged “satanic cult,” was sentenced to death. Over the next decade, an HBO trilogy of documentaries on the case, collectively titled Paradise Lost, helped spark an international campaign to free the West Memphis Three. Johnny Depp, Eddie Vedder, Henry Rollins and Peter Jackson were among the celebrities who became personally involved in the case; thanks to their efforts, and especially those of Echols’ wife, Lorri, whom he met during his prison term, the three were released in August 2011. Those bare facts alone would make for an interesting story. However, Echols is at heart a poet and mystic, and he has written not just a quickie one-off book to capitalize on a lurid news story, but rather a work of art that occasionally bears a resemblance to the work of Jean Genet. A voracious reader all his life, Echols vividly tells his story, from his impoverished childhood in a series of shacks and mobile homes to his emergence after half a lifetime behind bars as a psychically scarred man rediscovering freedom in New York City. The author also effectively displays his intelligence and sensitivity, qualities the Arkansas criminal justice system had no interest in recognizing during Echols’ ordeal.

Essential reading for anyone interested in justice or memoir.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-399-16020-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Blue Rider Press

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

Vonnegut’s most human of hearts beats on every page.

KURT VONNEGUT

LETTERS

Selected and edited letters by the author of Cat’s CradleSlaughterhouse-Five and other enduringly popular novels, letters that reveal Vonnegut’s passions, annoyances, loves, losses, mind and heart.

Edited and annotated by his friend and fellow Hoosier novelist Wakefield (The Hijacking of Jesus: How the Religious Right Distorts Christianity and Promotes Prejudice and Hate, 2006, etc.), Vonnegut’s letters, arranged by decade, reveal his wit and literary style, as well as his demons. Wakefield annotates lightly and introduces each decade with a swift biography and commentary. Mostly, however, the letters stand alone—and stand tall, indeed. A letter from 1945 tells his worried parents about his experiences as a POW in Dresden during the firebombing; the final letter declines an invitation to appear at Cornell. “At 84,” wrote Vonnegut, who died in 2007, “I resemble nothing so much as an iguana, hate travel, and have nothing to say. I might as well send a spent Roman candle in my stead.” Vonnegut remained close to his many relatives, and readers can chart his personal life here—his first marriage (ended in divorce), his relationships with his children (some were adopted), his second marriage (to photographer Jill Krementz). That marriage was often difficult, and he writes bitterly about finding evidence of her infidelity. His professional growth chart is here, too—his early struggle, his time teaching at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, his rising celebrity and fame, and his struggles to write later in his life. The political Vonnegut is much in evidence, as well. There are fiery letters about censorship and book burning and some anti-conservative rhetoric. Wakefield also includes Vonnegut’s touching letters to encourage other writers and to deal with an angry daughter.

Vonnegut’s most human of hearts beats on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34375-6

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

A breathtaking study of “walking as enabling sight and thought rather than encouraging retreat and escape.”

THE OLD WAYS

A JOURNEY ON FOOT

Macfarlane (English/Cambridge Univ.; The Wild Places, 2008, etc.) returns with another masterful, poetic travel narrative.

The author’s latest, focusing broadly on the concept of walking, forms what he calls “a loose trilogy,” with his two earlier books, Mountains of the Mind and The Wild Places, “about landscape and the human heart.” As in his previous books, it seems nearly impossible that a writer could combine so many disparate elements into one sensible narrative. It’s ostensibly a first-person travelogue (of England, Spain, Palestine, Tibet and other locales), combined with biographical sketches (such as that of poet Edward Thomas, who died on a battlefield in France in 1917) and historical anecdotes about a wide variety of subjects (e.g., a set of 5,000-year-old footprints made by a family along the coastline just north of Liverpool). In the hands of a lesser writer, these divergent ideas would almost certainly result in unreadable chaos, but Macfarlane effortlessly weaves them together under the overarching theme of “walking as a reconnoitre inwards, and the subtle ways in which we are shaped by the landscapes through which we move.” While this notion may seem abstract, the author’s resonant prose brings it to life—whether he is writing about the mountains of Tibet, where a half-frozen stream is “halted mid-leap in elaborate forms of yearning,” or the mountains of Scotland to which he returned for his grandfather’s funeral, where he found “moonlight shimmering off the pine needles and pooling in the tears of resin wept by the pines.”

A breathtaking study of “walking as enabling sight and thought rather than encouraging retreat and escape.”

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02511-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

Forney’s story should resonate with those grappling with similar issues, while her artistry should appeal to a wide...

MARBLES

MANIA, DEPRESSION, MICHELANGELO, AND ME: A GRAPHIC MEMOIR

For anyone who loves graphic memoir or has concerns about bipolar swings, creativity and medication, this narrative will prove as engaging and informative as it is inspirational.

Since the connection between artistry and mental instability has been well-documented, plenty of those diagnosed with bipolar disorder share the fears articulated in this unflinchingly honest memoir by Forney (I Love Led Zeppelin, 2006, etc.). “I don’t want balance, I want brilliance!” she exclaims during one of her manic phases. “Meds would bring me down!” Taking pride in her membership in “Club van Gogh (The true artist is a crazy artist),” she subsequently suffered from periods of depression that brought her down far lower than medication even could. “During a manic episode, depression seems entirely impossible,” she writes, but depression often made it impossible for her to imagine feeling so good or feeling much of anything beyond a benumbed dread. Forney chronicles her years of therapy, her research into the literature of depression and her trial-and-error experiences with medication—and cocktails of medication—searching for the combination where the benefits outweighed the side effects. She directly confronts the challenge facing anyone trying to monitor and assess her own mental state: “How could I keep track of my mind, with my own mind?” Not only does her conversational intimacy draw readers in, but her drawings perfectly capture the exhilarating frenzy of mania and the dark void of depression. “It was a relief to discover that aiming for a balanced life doesn’t mean succumbing to a boring one,” she writes with conviction.

Forney’s story should resonate with those grappling with similar issues, while her artistry should appeal to a wide readership.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59240-732-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Gotham Books

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

Rapturously irreverent, this book should kick-start plenty of useful discussions.

HOW TO BE A WOMAN

A spirited memoir/manifesto that dares readers to “stand on a chair and shout ‘I AM A FEMINIST.’ ”

With equal amounts snarky brio and righteous anger, Moran brings the discussion of contemporary women’s rights down from the ivory tower and into the mainstream. Although women have come a long way from the battles fought by the early suffragettes and the first-wave feminists of the 1960s and ’70s, they have also lost ground in some disturbing ways. Society still scrutinizes female sexual behavior for incipient signs of “sluttiness”; girls still grow up dreaming of becoming brides and wives (aka princesses), and pornography and strip clubs still objectify women. Moreover, celebrity culture puts women under a magnifying glass, dismissing their talents in favor of crowing over their physical flaws, their marital status and whether or not they have children. Into this sorry mess strides Moran, a self-deprecating, no-nonsense guide to womanhood. She frames her debate via a series of chapters detailing her own journey toward becoming not only a woman, but also a good person—polite, kind, funny and fundamentally decent. After all, feminism, she argues, is not a form of man hating; it is a celebration of women’s potential to effect change and an affirmation of their equality with men. That such an important topic is couched in ribald humor makes reading about Moran’s journey hilarious as well as provocative. With nary a hint of embarrassment, she reveals personal anecdotes about her miserable early adolescence as an overweight girl and her evolution into a music journalist who took London by storm on a quest to fall in love—or at least to kiss a lot of boys. She proves equally forthright in her views on abortion, childbearing and high heels. While some American readers may struggle with the British references and slang, they will find their efforts rewarded.

Rapturously irreverent, this book should kick-start plenty of useful discussions.

Pub Date: July 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-212429-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

A candid, inspiring narrative of the author’s brutal physical and psychological journey through a wilderness of despair to a...

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WILD

FROM LOST TO FOUND ON THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

Unsentimental memoir of the author’s three-month solo hike from California to Washington along the Pacific Crest Trail.

Following the death of her mother, Strayed’s (Torch, 2006) life quickly disintegrated. Family ties melted away; she divorced her husband and slipped into drug use. For the next four years, life was a series of disappointments. “I was crying over all of it,” she writes, “over the sick mire I’d made of my life since my mother died; over the stupid existence that had become my own. I was not meant to be this way, to live this way, to fail so darkly.” While waiting in line at an outdoors store, Strayed read the back cover of a book about the Pacific Crest Trail. Initially, the idea of hiking the trail became a vague apparition, then a goal. Woefully underprepared for the wilderness, out of shape and carrying a ridiculously overweight pack, the author set out from the small California town of Mojave, toward a bridge (“the Bridge of the Gods”) crossing the Columbia River at the Oregon-Washington border. Strayed’s writing admirably conveys the rigors and rewards of long-distance hiking. Along the way, she suffered aches, pains, loneliness, blistered, bloody feet and persistent hunger. Yet the author also discovered a newfound sense of awe; for her, hiking the PCT was “powerful and fundamental” and “truly hard and glorious.” Strayed was stunned by how the trail both shattered and sheltered her. Most of the hikers she met along the way were helpful, and she also encountered instances of trail magic, “the unexpected and sweet happenings that stand out in stark relief to the challenges of the trail.”

A candid, inspiring narrative of the author’s brutal physical and psychological journey through a wilderness of despair to a renewed sense of self.

Pub Date: March 20, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-59273-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

Aspects of a spy novel, a writer’s autobiography and a victim’s affidavit pulsing with resentment and fear combine to reveal...

JOSEPH ANTON

A MEMOIR

The frightening, illuminating and disturbing memoir by the author of The Satanic Verses, the book that provoked a death sentence from the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989.

Rushdie (Luka and the Fire of Life, 2008, etc.) chose for his cover name (and for the title) the first names of Conrad and Chekhov—appropriate, for the author seems caught in a tangled novel filled with ominous (and some cowardly) characters driven by an inscrutable fate toward a probable sanguinary climax. The author uses third person throughout, a decision that allows him a novelist’s distance but denies some of the intimacy of the first person. Perhaps he viewed himself during those 13 years (the duration of his protection by British security forces) more as a character than a free agent. He returns continually to an image from Hitchcock’s The Birds: the black birds gradually filling up a jungle gym on a school playground (these represent the threats to personal freedom presented by fundamentalists). Rushdie also includes unmailed letters to actual people (Tony Blair) and to ideas (the millennium). The organization is unremarkable: The author begins with his learning of the fatwa, retreats to tell about his life before 1989, then marches steadily toward the present with only a few returns (a section about his mother’s love life). Bluntly, he tells about his wives, divorces, affairs, successes and failures of pen and heart and character; his various security guards; and, very affectingly, about his two sons. He tells about his travels, many awards and celebrity friends. Emerging as heroic is the United States, where Rushdie realized he could live more freely than anywhere else.

Aspects of a spy novel, a writer’s autobiography and a victim’s affidavit pulsing with resentment and fear combine to reveal a man’s dawning awareness of the primacy of freedom.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9278-6

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2012

Bold, gripping, original and occasionally darkly funny.

AFTERMATH

ON MARRIAGE AND SEPARATION

A novelist's unflinching analysis of her failed marriage.

Cusk (The Bradshaw Variations, 2010, etc.) fixes an unnervingly steady gaze on the breakdown of her domestic life. “There was nothing left to dismantle,” she writes, “except the children, and that would require the intervention of science.” In her third memoir, the author brings together elements of a well-constructed novel—it’s compelling and even thrilling, despite the fact that the story is unsurprising and banal (man meets woman, and they create a family; family falls apart; man, woman and children grieve)—and its novelistic feel is a credit to Cusk's literary risk-taking. She doesn't tell her tale straight; instead, she weaves in figures from ancient Greek drama (Oedipus, Antigone, Agamemnon, Clytemnestra) and thickens the bare-bones plot with striking, elaborate turns of phrase and powerful images. The last and most unorthodox chapter is told, by Cusk, from the perspective of her au pair Sonia, a scared, scarred girl whom the author abruptly fired when her husband left (though she did provide her with another job). What is most startling about the Sonia chapter is not that the self-sufficient, Oxford-educated Cusk so convincingly inhabits the mind of an unskilled, young foreigner, but that she is willing to expose herself at her worst: cold, harsh, pitiless and even cruel to a woman far more vulnerable than she.

Bold, gripping, original and occasionally darkly funny.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-374-10213-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

“I am neither indifferent to, nor weary of, this world; had I a hundred lives, I know I would not tire of it,” he writes....

THE PATAGONIAN HARE

A MEMOIR

Love and death go hand in hand in the life of journalist and filmmaker Lanzmann, who at 84 delivers his first book (originally published in France in 2009): a beautifully written memoir driven by both the writer’s passion for living and his memories of lost friends.

Raised as a secular Jew in a family with deep communist sympathies—and an unusual parental arrangement that included his mother’s lover—the author served in the French Resistance and narrowly missed capture by the Nazis. As an adult, he went where the action was, culturally and romantically. He became editor of Jean-Paul Sartre’s journal Le Temps Modernes (a position he still holds more than 50 years later) and had an intense seven-year affair with Sartre’s lover, Simone de Beauvoir, who was happy to take him on as her “sixth man.” Faithfulness wasn’t anyone’s game then, and Lanzmann seemed to seduce nearly every woman he ever met. He also became deeply immersed in his own Jewish heritage and documentary filmmaking, ultimately resulting in his nine-hour magnum opus Shoah. Readers who have seen that great film will be especially interested in the last 100 pages, where he describes the making of it in exciting detail. Lanzmann is hardly a modest witness to his life, variously describing himself as a man of “phenomenal” endurance, a “fearless skier” and a “visionary,” but he’s equally generous to the memory of others. He renders beautiful if often painful memories of the departed: his beautiful and troubled sister, actress Evelyne Rey (one of Sartre’s many conquests), philosopher Gilles Deleuze, radical Frantz Fanon and his wife, Josie (all but Fanon, who died of leukemia, committed suicide). Lanzmann’s life has been a precarious balance between rich and poor, right and left, joy and fragility.

“I am neither indifferent to, nor weary of, this world; had I a hundred lives, I know I would not tire of it,” he writes. Intelligent readers will find it hard to argue.

Pub Date: March 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-374-23004-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

A consummate professional explores the attic of his life, converting rumination to art.

WINTER JOURNAL

The acclaimed novelist (Sunset Park, 2010, etc.), now 65, writes affectingly about his body, family, lovers, travels and residences as he enters what he calls the winter of his life.

Written entirely in the second person and, loosely, using the format of a journal (undated entries), Auster’s memoir courses gracefully over ground that is frequently rough, jarring and painful: the deaths of his parents, conflicts with his relatives (he settles some scores), poor decisions (his first marriage), accidents (a car crash that could have killed him) and struggles in his early career. But there are summery memories, as well: his love of baseball (begun in boyhood), his fondness for Campbell’s chicken noodle soup, his relationship with his mother, world travels (not all cheery; he recalls a near fistfight with a French taxi driver), books and friends. Most significant: his 30-year relationship with his wife, writer Siri Hustvedt (unnamed here), whom he continually celebrates. Some of the loveliest sentences in the text—and there are many—are illuminated by love. Near the end, Auster recalls visits with her family in Minnesota, a terrain so unlike what he knew (he lives in Brooklyn). Here, too, are moments of failure (not speaking up when he should have), of illness and injury, of sly humor. The author follows a grim description of a bout with the crabs with a paean to nature that begins, “Ladybugs were considered good luck.” Auster indulges in the occasional rant—he goes off on the crudities of contemporary culture—and delivers numerous moments of artful craft.

A consummate professional explores the attic of his life, converting rumination to art.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9553-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

Certainly, Hitchens died too soon. May this moving little visit to his hospital room not be the last word from him.

MORTALITY

A jovially combative riposte to anyone who thought that death would silence master controversialist Hitchens (Hitch-22, 2010, etc.).

Even as he lay—or sat or paced—dying in the unfamiliar confines of a hospital last year, the author had plenty to say about matters of life and death. Here, in pieces published in Vanity Fair to which are added rough notes and apothegms left behind in manuscript, Hitchens gives the strongest possible sense of his exhausting battle against the aggressive cancer spreading through his body. He waged that battle with customary sardonic good humor, calling the medical-industrial world into which he had been thrust “Tumortown.” More arrestingly, Hitchens conceived of the move from life to death as a sudden relocation, even a deportation, into another land: “The country has a language of its own—a lingua franca that manages to be both dull and difficult and that contains names like ondansetron, for anti-nausea medication—as well as some unsettling gestures that require a bit of getting used to.” One such gesture was the physician’s plunging of fingers into the neck to gauge whether a cancer had spread into the lymph nodes, but others were more subtle, including the hushed tones and reverences that came with the business. Hitchens, famously an atheist, visited the question of whether he should take Pascal’s wager and bet on God, concluding in the negative even as good God-fearing citizens filled his inbox with assurances that God was punishing him for his blasphemies with throat cancer. A reasonable thought, Hitchens concludes, though since he’s a writer, wouldn’t such a God have afflicted his hands first?

Certainly, Hitchens died too soon. May this moving little visit to his hospital room not be the last word from him.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4555-0275-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

Subtitled “A Comic Drama,” the narrative provides even fewer laughs than its predecessor but deeper introspection.

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ARE YOU MY MOTHER?

A COMIC DRAMA

A psychologically complex, ambitious, illuminating successor to the author’s graphic-memoir masterpiece.

Though Bechdel had previously enjoyed a cult following with her long-standing comic strip, Dykes to Watch Out For, she raised the bar for graphic narrative with her book debut, Fun Home (2006). That memoir detailed her childhood in the family’s funeral home, her closeted and emotionally distant father’s bisexuality, his questionable death (an accident that was most likely a suicide) and the author’s own coming to terms with her sexuality. On the surface, this is the “mom book” following the previous “dad book.” Yet it goes more deeply into the author’s own psychology (her therapy, dreams, relationships) and faces a fresh set of challenges. For one thing, the author’s mother is not only still alive, but also had very mixed feelings about how much Bechdel had revealed about the family in the first volume. For another, the author’s relationship with her mother—who withheld verbal expressions of love and told her daughter she was too old to be tucked in and kissed goodnight when she turned 7—is every bit as complicated as the one she detailed with her father. Thus, Bechdel not only searches for keys to their relationship, but perhaps even for surrogate mothers, through therapy, girlfriends and the writings of Virginia Woolf, Adrienne Rich, Alice Miller and others. Yet the primary inspiration in this literary memoir is psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, whose life and work Bechdel explores along with her own. Incidentally, the narrative also encompasses the writing of and response to Fun Home, a work that changed the author’s life and elevated her career to a whole new level.  She writes that she agonized over the creation of this follow-up for four years. It is a book she had to write, though she struggled mightily to figure out how to write it.

Subtitled “A Comic Drama,” the narrative provides even fewer laughs than its predecessor but deeper introspection.

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-618-98250-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

A complicated, elegiac, beautiful attempt to reconcile the physical bayt (home) and the spiritual.

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HOUSE OF STONE

A MEMOIR OF HOME, FAMILY, AND A LOST MIDDLE EAST

A nostalgic, bittersweet journey back to the Lebanese homestead.

As a war correspondent for the Washington Post covering the Israeli attack in Lebanon in 2006, Pulitzer winner Shadid (Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War, 2005, etc.), the child of Lebanese Americans who grew up in America, painfully encountered the home of his Lebanese ancestors in the town of Marjayoun. It was a once-fine house that had been long abandoned and was hit by an Israeli rocket. The author then resolved to take a furlough from his newspaper and reconstruct the house, which had belonged to his great-grandfather and was where his grandmother had spent her first 12 years before the family migrated to America. Shadid traces the two sides of his family that converged at the end of the 19th century in Marjayoun, the Samaras and the Shadids, whose subsequent migrations reflect the strife among the Syrian Lebanese Shiite community with the breakup of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. Suffering from his own divorce and separation from his small daughter, Shadid was often overcome by the “history of departures” witnessed by the house, the ruptures caused by loss and discord among the community of Christians, Muslims and Jews, and the tightly knit customs and rituals that kept things running. Shadid’s year became occupied with finding permission to build, securing willing contractors and artisans, and befriending sympathetic characters among the often hostile, suspicious townspeople. Much of the narrative is a gentle unfolding of observation and insight, as the author reacquaints himself with the Arabic rhythms, “absorbing beauties, and documenting what was no more.”

A complicated, elegiac, beautiful attempt to reconcile the physical bayt (home) and the spiritual.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-13466-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

Gritty, gripping and often heartbreaking—an impressive piece of narrative nonfiction.

BEAUTIFUL THING

INSIDE THE SECRET WORLD OF BOMBAY'S DANCE BARS

A harsh, cinematic look at the international sex trade.

In 2005, Vogue contributing editor Faleiro (The Girl, 2008) met the beautiful, charismatic Leela, "the highest-paid bar dancer” in her Bombay suburb. Leela brought Faleiro into her world, an environment filled with sleazy johns, frightening pimps and, of course, other exploited young women who were trapped in a life of stripping and/or prostitution. When Bombay's strip-club scene crashed and almost burned, Faleiro followed Leela's quest to rebuild her life. Leela was happy to let the author report on her adventures, and the result is a glimpse into a frightening subculture unlike anything that a typical American has ever experienced. Originally published in India in 2010, the book has become an international sensation; after only a few pages, it's easy to understand why. With crackling prose, Faleiro provides an intense, disconcertingly entertaining glimpse into the shadowy corners of a foreign culture; the fast-paced narrative, while undeniably journalistic, reads like a thriller. But what ultimately gives the book its resonance is Faleiro's empathy and love for her fully developed subjects. In lesser hands, these young people could have come off as clichés, but the author makes sure we care for them and root for them to survive a life that most will never understand.

Gritty, gripping and often heartbreaking—an impressive piece of narrative nonfiction.

Pub Date: March 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8021-7092-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Black Cat/Grove

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

Playfully drawn and provocatively written, the memoir reinforces Bell's standing among the first rank of the genre’s artists.

THE VOYEURS

“Graphic memoir” only hints at the artistry of a complex, literary-minded author who resists the bare-all confessionalism so common to the genre and blurs the distinction between fiction and factual introspection.

Who are “The Voyeurs?” In the short, opening title piece, they are a mixed-gender group standing on an urban rooftop, watching a couple have sex through a window in a nearby building. They tend to find the experience “uncomfortable,” even “creepy,” though those who remain raptly silent may well be more interested, even titillated. Bell (Lucky, 2006, etc.) is also a voyeur of sorts, chronicling the lives of others in significant detail while contemplating her own. As she admits before addressing an arts class in frigid Minneapolis, where she knows the major interest will be on how she has been able to turn her comics into a career, “I feel I need to disclaim this ‘story.’ I set myself the task of reporting my trip, though there’s not much to it, and I can’t back out now. It’s my compulsion to do this, it’s my way, I suppose, of fighting against the meaninglessness constantly crowding in.” The memoir encompasses travels that take her from Brooklyn to Los Angeles and from Japan to France, while addressing the challenges of long-distance relationships, panic attacks, contemporary feminism, Internet obsessiveness, the temptation to manipulate life to provide material for her work, and the ultimate realization, in the concluding “How I Make My Comics,” of her creative process: “Then I want to blame everyone I’ve known ever for all the failures and frustrations of my life, and I want to call someone up and beg them to please help me out of this misery somehow, and when I realize how futile both these things are I feel the cold, sharp sting of the reality that I’m totally and utterly alone in the world. Then I slap on a punchline and bam, I’m done.”

Playfully drawn and provocatively written, the memoir reinforces Bell's standing among the first rank of the genre’s artists.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-9846814-0-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Uncivilized Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

A courageous, insightful book that offers no cause for optimism.

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BAILOUT

AN INSIDE ACCOUNT OF HOW WASHINGTON ABANDONED MAIN STREET WHILE RESCUING WALL STREET

A former watchdog in the federal government attacks the officials who perpetuated the financial meltdown by kowtowing to behemoth banks and Wall Street firms while abandoning the public interest.

Barofsky was a federal prosecutor in New York in 2008 when his boss encouraged him to apply for a newly created position in Washington, D.C., as inspector general overseeing the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Created during the waning months of the Bush administration and inherited by President Barack Obama, TARP allocated hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money to allegedly stabilize too-big-to-fail banks, strengthen investment firms and rescue homeowners from foreclosure. Ignorant of cutthroat Washington politics, Barofsky, a Democrat, won confirmation by the U.S. Senate despite Republican Party dominance and set out to account for the TARP spending in a transparent, nonpartisan manner. However, as he demonstrates in his energetically written first-person account, he and his staff met resistance every time they tried to share the truth with Congress, the White House and the American public. The villains are numerous, with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner at the top of the list. Of course, it’s possible that some of the negative characterizations shared by Barofsky involve score-settling or well-intentioned differences. That seems unlikely, however, since the author provides copious evidence of the petty attacks on his office by Geithner, other Treasury Department officials, White House staff members, senators and representatives, coddled journalists and ill-informed bloggers. Barofsky's account contains enough self-deprecation that he does not come off as a holier-than-thou hero.

A courageous, insightful book that offers no cause for optimism.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-8493-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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