Photographs sprinkled throughout are the most riveting part of a flat memoir.

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EVEN AFTER ALL THIS TIME

A STORY OF LOVE, REVOLUTION, AND LEAVING IRAN

A depiction of life after the Iranian Revolution will invite inevitable—and unfavorable—comparison with Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran.

The Revolution tore apart the Latifi clan, as first-time author Latifi recounts in this family saga. Her father is arrested on trumped-up murder charges, tried before a puppet court, and executed. Latifi’s courageous and cunning mother sends her two daughters—ten and eleven—to Austria for schooling and for safety, and they eventually settle in the US. The author learns English from television, studies hard, and becomes an attorney. After years apart, Mother and all the Latifi siblings are reunited in America, and the tale concludes with our heroine’s first, emotionally grueling trip back to Iran. Despite the thrilling backdrop, though—the tumultuous Iranian politics, international education, high-pitched emotions—the story is colorless and plodding. Experiences that might have been entrancing in the hands of another writer tend to the prosaic: “Day-to-day life in Iran was becoming impossible”; “Before long, I began to feel more optimistic about the future”; “I was . . . devastated by the break-up.” Occasionally, Latifi leavens such generalities with concrete, specific details—her first use of Nair, her discovery of library cards and of Jane Austen, her first visit to an American courtroom, the ugly plaid that seems ubiquitous in Virginia. For the most part, though, she breaks the cardinal show/don’t-tell rule, the result being an ultimately tedious read. In her summer law clerkship in Charleston, West Virginia, for example, Latifi felt so out of place that she quit, leaving in early July—and what a wonderful chapter this could have made, full of sights, sounds, and misunderstandings. But Latifi summarizes the entire affair with “I was hopelessly lonely in Charleston, and I found the place depressingly provincial.” Her tumultuous childhood is of interest, but it doesn’t make an on-again/off-again romance with a good-looking man (who remains two-dimensional) worth spending time with.

Photographs sprinkled throughout are the most riveting part of a flat memoir.

Pub Date: April 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-074533-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2005

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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