A well-crafted portrait of growing up biracial in the United States.

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MY LIFE IN BLACK AND WHITE

From the executive story editor of Scrubs, a terrific memoir about her Philadelphia childhood.

Nissel’s mother, a Black Panther from West Philadelphia, married a white man from upstate Pennsylvania; together they had two children. “Where are you from?” was the refrain Nissel and her brother most often heard from whites; from blacks, it was, “You talk white.” Determined to find her niche, she tried to become “more authentically black” by wearing cornrows, which lasted until she dived underwater at the local pool. She also considered Judaism, reflecting, “They have their own school and their own language. It’s like a club.” (A friend replied: “Well, for your sake, it’d better be a nice club because being black and Jewish, you won’t be able to get into any other ones.”) After her philandering father abandoned them, the family moved frequently, living—and earning equal doses of scorn—in neighborhoods both poor and wealthy. While a student at the University of Pennsylvania, Nissel posted an online journal about her financial struggles that was later published as The Broke Diaries (not reviewed). But it wasn’t poverty that led to her brief hospitalization for clinical depression during college; despite her quips about racism, endless queries regarding her ethnicity proved wearing. A fellow student in what Nissel jokingly refers to as the “Nation of Islam Lite” broke off their friendship, citing as her reason, “a child is the race of his father.” During a temporary gig with the IRS, a white female coworker asked her to recommend books about “the black experience.” Eventually, Nissel decided to try her fortunes on the West Coast, where she seems to be thriving. Readers will be grateful that she’s willing to revisit her challenging past: Colorful anecdotes, marvelous dialogue and a thoughtful narrative make this memoir a delight.

A well-crafted portrait of growing up biracial in the United States.

Pub Date: March 21, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-48114-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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