There are points when the writing veers from emotional into overly sentimental. However, Castillo succeeds more often than...

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BLACK DOVE

MAMÁ, MI'JO, AND ME

A memoir of a writer—single, bisexual, mother, feminist—and her thoughts on social injustices, culture, and families.

In the introduction, poet and novelist Castillo (Give It to Me, 2014, etc.) acknowledges that her specific combination of self-descriptors could cause many readers to “come away from this book feeling that my stories have nothing to do with your lives.” Certainly, many readers approach memoirs with the idea of that being a positive aspect—to immerse oneself in the experiences and travails of somebody different, to escape oneself—and the author ably explores the intersections between shared experiences and personal, unique experiences. The details of her forebears' histories serve as keys to unlocking her present. She writes of her struggles with childhood poverty and the many obstacles that her family had to face on a daily basis. The author focuses on her aunt Flora, who, despite hardship—or perhaps because of it—found positivity in all things, displaying a vibrant, extroverted personality. Castillo's mother, on the other hand, was quiet and reserved. “My mother,” writes the author, “from whom no doubt I acquired the somber manner that has so often been misinterpreted as aloofness, was so different from her only sister.” Castillo describes a childhood and young adulthood spent moving among Mexico, Chicago, and elsewhere, pursuing education, love, and a growing sense that writing could provide a way to make sense of her life and the difficulties faced by a nation with many cultures living side by side. It is a high-wire act to bring together a combination of personality characteristics and specific cultural touchstones and make it resonate with a wider readership, but the author handles it well.

There are points when the writing veers from emotional into overly sentimental. However, Castillo succeeds more often than she fails, and her book provides a compassionate look at those crossing points in our shared lives.

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-55861-923-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Feminist Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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