Cuts through the murk and blarney to suggestively analyze a curious figure. (31 illustrations, 3 maps)

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THE LIFE AND TIMES OF DEBORAH SAMPSON, CONTINENTAL SOLDIER

Sensible portrait of Deborah Sampson, a.k.a. Robert Shurtliff, soldier in the American Revolution.

Sampson wasn’t the first woman to try to pass as a man to gain entry into the Continental Army, but she was the most successful, writes Young (History Emeritus/Northern Illinois Univ.; The Shoemaker and the Tea Party, not reviewed). Not only did she serve for an impressive 17 months, but she was neither thrown in jail nor drummed out of town to the tune of the “whore’s march.” (This, Young suggests, may have been because she wasn’t looking for a husband and had been wounded in battle.) But what was she doing masquerading as a soldier? The author turns for enlightenment to a memoir Sampson wrote with the florid aid of Herman Mann, deciphering what he can of the true story from Mann’s obvious and not-so-obvious embellishments. Young comes at the memoir from an angle, looking for slender clues, details, and corroboration, trying to match them up against other oral histories. His tone is humble, knowing full well he is on sketchy ground, but the toeholds he finds for his ideas are solid. These range from the spirit of disguise that was loose on the land (remember the Boston Tea Party?) to the plebian tradition of warrior women, from the scant prospects of a former indentured servant to Sampson’s defiant, rebellious nature. She was that “ultimate threat: a woman ‘who wore the breeches.’ ” All of this comes out as Young charts Sampson’s early life, her years of notoriety, and her demands for veterans’ pension, pointing to the paradox of this iconoclast flirting with conformity within her nonconformity. Sampson was a model soldier, she married, she even apologized.

Cuts through the murk and blarney to suggestively analyze a curious figure. (31 illustrations, 3 maps)

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2004

ISBN: 0-679-44165-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2003

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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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