These bagatelles offer glittering diversion but little of lasting worth.

LOOSE DIAMONDS

...AND OTHER THINGS I'VE LOST (AND FOUND) ALONG THE WAY

Sex and the City meets Erma Bombeck in this gossamer gathering of recollections from novelist Ephron (One Sunday Morning, 2005, etc.).

True to its title, the book flaunts the glimmers of memory that the author haphazardly crafts into vignettes detailing her bohemian-chic adventures in Los Angeles and New York—with an emphasis on the chic. Starting off as a wild child in the 1970s, she recounts swilling champagne with glamorous friends, buying couture from Saks Fifth Avenue and interviewing Manson Family member Squeaky Fromme at the Spahn Ranch. Ephron’s most entertaining anecdotes date from this era, as she name-drops celebrity friends and shines a light on the inner workings of the National Lampoon during its heady countercultural years. Less sparkling are her attempts to frame her contemporary life with her second husband and five children as a Beverly Hills version of Cheaper by the Dozen. Readers may find it difficult to conjure much empathy for a woman who disparages Elizabeth Taylor’s gigantic diamond ring as extravagant, but laments the theft of her own baubles fashioned by the likes of Tiffany, Cartier and Elsa Peretti. This theft, one of several that hit the Los Angeles area, understandably shook up the author, and the event functions as a sort of connecting thread for the collection. However, even when commenting on the serial burglar’s habit of creating a different persona for each house, she fails to delve further. Accounts of the hostile mothers at her son’s private school similarly fail to engage. While Ephron has enough of a sense of humor to keep these pieces from completely lacking in self-awareness, her writing too often skims the surface, even for comic musings. Likewise, the more somber essays addressing her mother’s depression and Ephron’s own experience with date rape are meandering and unfocused.

These bagatelles offer glittering diversion but little of lasting worth.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-195874-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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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