A zany and refreshing, if slightly overwhelming, take on soul-searching, writing, and midlife crises.

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Me: A Rewrite

FROM VANITY INSANITY TO SELF-ACCEPTANCE (SORT OF)

In this debut memoir, a woman turns her quest for something new into a comedic adventure.

“My journey,” Jorgensen writes in her foreword, “follows a route of randomness (though, if asked, I’ll totally deny that and say I planned it all out—with bullet point lists and highlighter pens).” The half-Mexican, half-Danish author describes herself as “hot-tempered, loud, and direct,” and these attributes come across clearly as she relates her childhood, working life, and a divorce that set her on a path of rediscovery in her late 30s. She details the journey of her “Little Mother” from Mexico to Canada, and her own youth spent in small towns throughout Canada’s Comox Valley: “If it had the word ‘river’ in its name or running though it, there’s a good chance I was there,” she writes. As an adult “Realty Lady,” she found herself trapped by her false salesperson persona, 80-hour-plus work weeks, and her marriage to a good man who just wasn’t right for her. She escaped that life by taking an intensive writing course at TheFilmSchool in Seattle and then trying her hand at dating, which resulted in a “HBUAB” (“handsome but unworthy American Boyfriend”) and, later, a continuing series of romantic and professional misadventures throughout the Pacific Northwest. Jorgensen’s prose style has the casual, carefree energy of many contemporary tell-all bloggers, and she often interjects self-deprecating parentheticals, bullet lists, and satirical strike-throughs into her story. Like many comedians, she turns the most upsetting moments of her life—including deaths, divorce, infidelity, and sexual abuse—into dark jokes. She exhaustively offers her opinions on such topics as popular culture, toothpaste, self-perception, and, of course, relationships, with witty wordplay and outlandish observations. The memoir’s manic pace and playful grammatical structures don’t feel particularly innovative or original, however, and it’s easy to get lost in its dense tangents. The author also lacks the precision and structure of the dark-comedy masters, such as David Sedaris. However, she’s consistently bold, shocking, and hilarious. Readers looking for a laugh won’t be disappointed, and those tired of heavier, more traditional memoirs about modern women’s struggles will be pleasantly surprised.

A zany and refreshing, if slightly overwhelming, take on soul-searching, writing, and midlife crises.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2014

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2015

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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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