by Alicia Elliott ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 4, 2020
An impressive debut from a welcome new voice in Native letters.
A bicultural, binational writer examines racial justice, mental illness, cultural appropriation, and other issues in this powerful set of essays.
Born in the U.S., Elliott moved to the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve in Ontario in childhood. That early period of life shapes her recognition, recounted here, of the pain of poverty and mental illness. Her parents “slept in the living room on the couch and recliner,” lacking both privacy and a place where her mother could hide her growing depression, which she considered a form of demonic possession. “As far as analogies go, comparing depression to a demon is a pretty good one,” writes the author in a sharp passage. “Both overtake your faculties, leaving you disconnected and disembodied. Both change you so abruptly that even your loved ones barely recognize you. Both whisper evil words and malformed truths. Both scare most people shitless.” Elliott evokes both fear and considerable melancholy as she chronicles the hardships of life at Six Nations, where convenience-store food and suicide were constant companions. Later in the collection, she writes of her Haudenosaunee (Mohawk) father, who once cut the tip of a finger off with a chainsaw and stoically endured the ride to the hospital without acknowledging his own fear and pain: “Maybe I couldn’t map the pain on his face because he was always in pain.” Elliott writes with honesty and empathy of her life and the lives of family, constantly reckoning with institutional racism and less intentional private prejudices, as when she recounts a fellow writer’s telling her that of course she’d be “published right away because I was Native,” an unguarded moment of essentialism in which only ethnicity and not ability mattered. The author is not inclined to shrug off such things, and her larger views on the treatment of Indigenous peoples by the Canadian and American governments and critiques of racism, sexism, and other such offenses are well thought through and elegantly argued.An impressive debut from a welcome new voice in Native letters.
Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020
Page Count: 240
Publisher: Melville House
Review Posted Online: May 25, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020
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A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
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
Page Count: 192
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022
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by Britney Spears ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 24, 2023
Spears’ vulnerability shines through as she describes her painful journey from vulnerable girl to empowered woman.
A heartfelt memoir from the pop superstar.
Spears grew up with an alcoholic father, an exacting mother, and a fear of disappointing them both. She also displayed a natural talent for singing and dancing and a strong work ethic. Spears is grateful for the adult professionals who helped her get her start, but the same can’t be said of her peers. When she met Justin Timberlake, also a Mouseketeer on the Disney Channel’s updated Mickey Mouse Club, the two formed an instant bond. Spears describes her teenage feelings for Timberlake as “so in love with him it was pathetic,” and she’s clearly angry about the rumors and breakup that followed. This tumultuous period haunted her for years. Out of many candidates for villains of the book, Timberlake included, perhaps the worst are the careless journalists of the late 1990s and early 2000s, who indulged Timberlake while vilifying Spears. The cycle repeated for years, taking its toll on her mental health. Spears gave birth to sons Sean Preston and Jayden James within two years, and she describes the difficulties they all faced living in the spotlight. The author writes passionately about how custody of her boys and visits with them were held over her head, and she recounts how they were used to coerce her to make decisions that weren’t always in her best interest. As many readers know, conservancy followed, and for 13 years, she toured, held a residency in Las Vegas, and performed—all while supposedly unable to take care of herself, an irony not lost on her. Overall, the book is cathartic, though readers who followed her 2021 trial won’t find many revelations, and many of the other newsworthy items have been widely covered in the run-up to the book’s release.Spears’ vulnerability shines through as she describes her painful journey from vulnerable girl to empowered woman.
Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2023
Page Count: 288
Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023
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