ALL THAT IS BITTER AND SWEET

A MEMOIR

With the assistance of co-author Vollers (Lone Wolf: Eric Rudolph: Murder, Myth, and the Pursuit of an American Outlaw, 2006, etc.), actress Judd delivers a keenly felt memoir of a dysfunctional upbringing twined with an adult life of progressive social advocacy.

Some wag once said that the Judd family put the “fun” in dysfunctional, but Ashley remembers the turbulence rather differently, as “a family full of hatred, fighting, accusation, manipulation, abandonment, and emotional and physical abuse,” with everything “from depression, suicide, alcoholism, and compulsive gambling to incest and suspected murder. Judd examines her difficult history, braiding it with her current days as a committed activist for human rights. Though she calls readers’ attention to her movie-star status as she rubs humanitarian-circuit shoulders with Bono, Juanes (“the Colombian rock superstar”) and Bollywood’s Akshay Kumar (“the Indian equivalent of Will Smith or Bruce Willis, but with a fan base of a billion people”), she also comes across as a piercingly effective global ambassador for Population Services International, tackling issues of reproductive health and child survival. At first, she was undone by her visits to third-world brothels, but she eventually realized that her own sexual abuse was causing the over-identification, subverting her agenda. “I understand the urge to rescue everybody,” says her PSI boss, “but that’s not how it works. PSI is not a rescue organization. We are a public health organization.” The author writes with a sure hand of the many difficult themes she addresses: her journey of emotional recovery (a fine chapter on her rehab for codependency and depression), her spiritual quest, finding the humanity in the sexual perpetrators and making tangible her toils for social justice. Judd is also a solid painter of place, from the most squalid sex factory to the rural sweetness of her Tennessee home. A passionate reminder of the breathtaking misery of so many lives, and one woman’s work in their service.

 

Pub Date: April 5, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-345-52361-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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