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Essays that are as thematically ambitious as they are deeply personal.

Morales (English/Glendale Community Coll.) debuts with a compellingly rendered collection of essays, the winner of the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize.

The concluding and climactic title piece—about the author giving birth to her daughter at the same time and hospital as a 14-year-old single mother, one of so many that this young teacher has come to know—was already selected for inclusion in Best American Essays, and the coming-of-age stories preceding it combine unflinching honesty with all-embracing compassion. Morales describes growing up in Los Angeles in a dysfunctional Mexican-American family with parents who were raised poor but began living beyond their means. One of her father’s manic shopping binges provided her with a bowling ball, and the bowling alley gave her an identity separate from the one she had at home and at school. As she matured, her parents’ marriage crumbled, leaving her ambivalent over the prospect of a divorce that likely took too long to arrive. Meanwhile, her father continued to beat her mother and cheat on her, resulting in fights that led to police visits, making the family the spectacle of their otherwise white neighborhood: “They would gather with crossed arms, squinting beyond the sun’s glare toward our front door, acting as if they were 100 percent entitled to stare…[like] it was no different than staring at elephants in the zoo. My mother said that they thought we were a bunch of dumb, dirty, low-class Mexicans.” Yet most of the essays aren’t as dark as this one nor as focused on the author’s ethnicity. Her memories of women’s liberation and its influence on schoolgirls, her experience with flashers and other perverts, and her later life as a mother and teacher all help forge a distinctive voice and perspective, an understanding that “writing connects us to people with whom we’d otherwise have no connection…and thus we develop empathy.”

Essays that are as thematically ambitious as they are deeply personal.

Pub Date: April 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8263-5662-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Univ. of New Mexico

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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