A fond but cleareyed look at a steady leader and the African nation on his shoulders.

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AGAINST ALL ODDS

ZAMBIA'S PRESIDENT EDGAR CHAGWA LUNGU'S ROUGH JOURNEY TO STATE HOUSE

A debut political biography examines Zambia’s current head of state.

In his book, Zambia’s deputy ambassador to Sweden introduces the world’s readers to his boss, Edgar Chagwa Lungu, a relatively new president attempting to unify the African country’s warring factions and to diversify the nation’s copper-dependent economy. The 60-year-old Lungu’s tenure follows that of his fierce and flamboyant mentor, Michael Sata. Appointed by his predecessor to effectively run the country in Sata’s absence, “the acting president did not have the luxury to sit down and cry or mourn” when news of the leader’s death reached Zambia. Mukwita was by his side as Lungu witnessed Vice President Guy Scott’s appointment as acting president on Sata’s death but chose not to contest this action lest he be accused of treason. Mukwita locates in this abnegation the seeds of Lungu’s genius. Throughout Lungu’s political career, “it was hard to see him coming, but that was always his secret weapon.” The narrative tracks his rise to power, the contested 2015 election against the wealthy businessman Hakainde Hichilema, and Lungu’s subsequent efforts to shore up the landlocked country’s economy in the face of falling copper prices and rising inflation. With a strong track record of professional competence and a unique team of rivals in his cabinet, Lungu has maintained his dignity during “what some political commentators have described as the fastest rise in political office” to serve his nation stalwartly and boldly both at home and abroad. Thoughtfulness and eloquence aside, this work is a campaign biography. The genre has its limitations. The subject’s favorite book must inevitably be the Bible, and the figure must possess no overriding hunger for power, just a steady drive to do what’s best for the country. This volume, however, aims for and achieves more than most such entries in the genre by repeatedly pausing to deliver thoughtful, researched, and exacting biographies of the major characters (the opposition figures are, generally, treated fairly) and to provide historical context for non-native readers. Mukwita’s efforts have paid off: this is a fine work to begin one’s reading about Zambia and the passions of its people.

A fond but cleareyed look at a steady leader and the African nation on his shoulders. 

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4828-7726-7

Page Count: 174

Publisher: PartridgeAfrica

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2017

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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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