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TWICE A DAUGHTER

An engaging, endearing chronicle of a woman’s quest to find her origins.

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In this debut memoir, a woman’s hunt for her birthparents becomes a search for herself.

McGue and her twin sister, Jenny, were adopted as infants. Because it was a closed adoption, they never knew the identities of their birthparents—or their family health histories. When, at age 48, Julie thought she might have breast cancer, the author decided it would be best for her and her children to know what hereditary diseases existed in her family. She got Jenny on board with the search, though McGue worried about offending her adoptive parents. It turned out reassuring her family was the easy part: The hard part was all the secrecy surrounding the adoption. She knew her birth name—Ann Marie Jensen—and that she was adopted through St. Vincent’s Orphanage. Beyond that, the trail went cold. The author’s attempts to track down the “Jensens,” whomever they might be, ended up spanning eight years and involving all manner of obstacles, agencies, and investigators. It was never fully about health records, as McGue admitted to herself: “The desire for medical information involves not just locating my birth parents but also communicating with them, and that realization has led to fantasies about meeting and getting to know them.” What began as a pursuit of genetic information soon became an exploration into the core of the author’s identity. McGue writes in an urgent, fluid prose that captures the highs and lows of her expectations and disappointments. Here, she and her sister meet with Ray the “History Cop”: “Perhaps the negative karma I imagined did follow Jenny and me in from the parking lot, because when we lay out our search history, Ray shakes his head. He can’t help us. Our birth mother’s alias is the problem. We need her real name to proceed.” While not precisely a page-turner, the mystery is a relatable and compelling one, and readers will enjoy learning about the Byzantine mechanisms that underlie the adoption process. McGue and her family are sympathetic and well rendered, and readers will ultimately be as anxious as the author to find out who is waiting at the end of the search.

An engaging, endearing chronicle of a woman’s quest to find her origins.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64742-050-5

Page Count: 282

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2020

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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TANQUERAY

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

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A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

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LOVE, PAMELA

A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.

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The iconic model tells the story of her eventful life.

According to the acknowledgments, this memoir started as "a fifty-page poem and then grew into hundreds of pages of…more poetry." Readers will be glad that Anderson eventually turned to writing prose, since the well-told anecdotes and memorable character sketches are what make it a page-turner. The poetry (more accurately described as italicized notes-to-self with line breaks) remains strewn liberally through the pages, often summarizing the takeaway or the emotional impact of the events described: "I was / and still am / an exceptionally / easy target. / And, / I'm proud of that." This way of expressing herself is part of who she is, formed partly by her passion for Anaïs Nin and other writers; she is a serious maven of literature and the arts. The narrative gets off to a good start with Anderson’s nostalgic memories of her childhood in coastal Vancouver, raised by very young, very wild, and not very competent parents. Here and throughout the book, the author displays a remarkable lack of anger. She has faced abuse and mistreatment of many kinds over the decades, but she touches on the most appalling passages lightly—though not so lightly you don't feel the torment of the media attention on the events leading up to her divorce from Tommy Lee. Her trip to the pages of Playboy, which involved an escape from a violent fiance and sneaking across the border, is one of many jaw-dropping stories. In one interesting passage, Julian Assange's mother counsels Anderson to desexualize her image in order to be taken more seriously as an activist. She decided that “it was too late to turn back now”—that sexy is an inalienable part of who she is. Throughout her account of this kooky, messed-up, enviable, and often thrilling life, her humility (her sons "are true miracles, considering the gene pool") never fails her.

A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2023

ISBN: 9780063226562

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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