A poignant memoir that chronicles a harrowing personal journey and explores the more mystical aspects of yoga.

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LIFE HAPPENS TO US

A TRUE STORY

A debut author recounts her life as the youngest child in a dysfunctional family and her decades-long struggle to find inner peace and love.

In 1972, when the author was 9 years old, her sister Neelam committed suicide by drinking weed killer. Neelam was only 13, and the repercussions from her sister’s tragic death would permanently tear apart a family that was already fracturing at the seams. In her memoir, Ashta-deb clearly describes the challenges she faced. She was born in Guyana to a family of Indian heritage. All but her paternal grandmother were Hindus. The family, both immediate and extended, had a complicated history of loving closeness and intermittent, traumatizing violence and verbal abuse, a cycle that would repeat through the generations. In 1967, Ashta-deb, her parents, and her two older sisters, Neelam and Priya, moved to Toronto. When her father mysteriously returned to Guyana in 1971 (the author later learned he was wanted by the Canadian police for embezzlement), the rest of the family eventually followed, although her mother made repeated trips back to Canada. By this time, each of her parents had taken lovers, her mother in Canada and her father in Guyana. Gradually, Priya and later the author and her mother returned to Canada. In an emotional, well-written, but often disturbing narrative, Ashta-deb recalls her mother’s repeated abandonments and incessant criticism: “How you looking so ugly?” Much of the heartbreaking book centers on the author’s attempts to understand her own unstable behavior, first via psychotherapy and then through intensive meditation and kriya yoga. (The work should particularly appeal to yoga enthusiasts.) Determined to build on her “heightened clairvoyance and extraordinary abilities,” she participated in various retreats and pilgrimages to India, which she details vividly and extensively. She also shares with readers her spiritual visions (for example, she, like her grandfather, has seen the date of her own death). Her decision to ingest a psychedelic mushroom to deal with persistent clinical depression seems to have brought her clarity: “The psilocybin forced me to open doors within myself that I was too afraid to do with my conscious mind.”

A poignant memoir that chronicles a harrowing personal journey and explores the more mystical aspects of yoga.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 275

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

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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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