Students of mediation, social psychology, and conflict resolution will find much of value here.

HIGH CONFLICT

WHY WE GET TRAPPED AND HOW WE GET OUT

A revealing study of “high conflict,” the intractable sort that seems to be running like a virus through American society.

In a society, useful conflict helps advance social causes and proves “a force that pushes us to be better people.” Journalist Ripley, author of The Smartest Kids in the World, contrasts this with “high conflict,” the kind that leads practitioners to label their foes as evil rather than merely opposed, that causes us to think differently—and not for the better. “We feel increasingly certain of our own superiority and, at the same time, more and more mystified by the other side,” writes the author, who adds that it is possible to teach ourselves to deescalate before high conflict results in violence, which is not inevitable but is all too often how such friction works out. Ripley’s observations are provocative, and she introduces us to ideas of mediation and problem-solving that would make many people less miserable if put into practice. Sometimes, however, in the manner of magazine stories, the human-interest anecdotes feel like padding. Other times, the illustrative stories are right on point, as with Ripley’s account of a group of largely conservative Michiganders and largely liberal New Yorkers who met, talked, met and talked more, and realized that they had commonalities enough to help them work through their differences: “Despite everything, in defiance of all the forces keeping them in conflict, they wanted to make sense of each other.” The author adds that this happy result was ephemeral. When the two camps went back home, it didn’t take long before each was entrenched in their former oppositional position, some members even more radicalized. This means, she concludes, that everyone involved has to put in the work: “To keep conflict healthy in an adversarial world, the encounters can’t end.”

Students of mediation, social psychology, and conflict resolution will find much of value here.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982128-56-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

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I'M GLAD MY MOM DIED

The former iCarly star reflects on her difficult childhood.

In her debut memoir, titled after her 2020 one-woman show, singer and actor McCurdy (b. 1992) reveals the raw details of what she describes as years of emotional abuse at the hands of her demanding, emotionally unstable stage mom, Debra. Born in Los Angeles, the author, along with three older brothers, grew up in a home controlled by her mother. When McCurdy was 3, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though she initially survived, the disease’s recurrence would ultimately take her life when the author was 21. McCurdy candidly reconstructs those in-between years, showing how “my mom emotionally, mentally, and physically abused me in ways that will forever impact me.” Insistent on molding her only daughter into “Mommy’s little actress,” Debra shuffled her to auditions beginning at age 6. As she matured and starting booking acting gigs, McCurdy remained “desperate to impress Mom,” while Debra became increasingly obsessive about her daughter’s physical appearance. She tinted her daughter’s eyelashes, whitened her teeth, enforced a tightly monitored regimen of “calorie restriction,” and performed regular genital exams on her as a teenager. Eventually, the author grew understandably resentful and tried to distance herself from her mother. As a young celebrity, however, McCurdy became vulnerable to eating disorders, alcohol addiction, self-loathing, and unstable relationships. Throughout the book, she honestly portrays Debra’s cruel perfectionist personality and abusive behavior patterns, showing a woman who could get enraged by everything from crooked eyeliner to spilled milk. At the same time, McCurdy exhibits compassion for her deeply flawed mother. Late in the book, she shares a crushing secret her father revealed to her as an adult. While McCurdy didn’t emerge from her childhood unscathed, she’s managed to spin her harrowing experience into a sold-out stage act and achieve a form of catharsis that puts her mind, body, and acting career at peace.

The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982185-82-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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