A moving tale that’s emotionally powerful and historically edifying.

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In the Unlikeliest of Places

HOW NACHMAN LIBESKIND SURVIVED THE NAZIS, GULAGS, AND SOVIET COMMUNISM

A daughter chronicles her father’s extraordinary life, including the suffering he endured under both Nazi and Communist tyrannies.

Nachman Libeskind was largely raised in Lodz, Poland, where his Jewish parents eked out a modest living with a small grocery store. Libeskind, who had three siblings, was an infectiously happy child, obsessed with art and music. Instead of sending him to a cheder, a traditional religious school, his parents reluctantly enrolled him at the Vladimir Medem School—a much more progressive, practical academy that changed Libeskind’s life. As a teenager, he was politically active in the Bundist movement and jailed; he quickly learned the precariousness of life in Poland as a socialist and as a Jew. After Nazi Germany annexed Lodz, it became clear that he had to flee the country. He headed to the southern hinterlands of the Soviet Union, and he met his future wife, Dora Blaustein, in Uzbekistan. The two were forced to work in labor camps in Kyrgyzstan before they eventually returned to Poland. The political climate there remained perilous, with Jews subject to harassment from the Soviet secret police and anti-Semites, both seemingly ubiquitous. In 1957, Libeskind moved his family to Israel, an exciting prospect for Dora, who was reunited with family members there. Later, they all moved to New York, where Libeskind made a name as a painter. Berkovits, Libeskind’s daughter and the author of this cinematically gripping debut biography, does a masterful job weaving together a coherent narrative, culled largely from tape recordings that her father left behind. She has a rare gift for storytelling, and along the way, she  intersperses her own, first-person accounts of her father as she knew him (“I remember the first time we talked about my father’s imprisonment when I was a young teenager and felt that somehow he wasn’t telling me the whole story”). Overall, the prose is lively and direct, and the story is deeply affecting. Sometimes, the author’s tendency to leap forward and backward in time is a touch disorienting, but this is a minor quibble when balanced against the work’s virtue as a whole.

A moving tale that’s emotionally powerful and historically edifying.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-77112-066-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 20, 2016

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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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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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