A confusing array of snapshots of women from the history of the Western hemisphere. Morales (who has taught Jewish studies and women’s studies at the Univ. of Calif., Berkeley) wants to make the point that Puerto Rican women descend from many diverse cultures, and so she rightly includes stories here from West Africa, various parts of Mexico, and even Native American tribes, as well as Spain. But some of the inclusions really stretch the imagination (Ethel Rosenberg as an ancestress of Puerto Rican women?). Also, Morales includes very little about contemporary Puerto Rican women themselves, except to tell us in the introduction that they “have always held up four-fifths of the sky.” The entire book is a chronological leap through 200,000 years of cross-cultural women’s history. It is imaginatively organized, however, beginning with bisabuelas (great-grandmothers) and ending with the author’s birth in 1954. Morales incorporates sidebars on assorted healing herbs and plants (shades of Like Water for Chocolate) into this ostensible healing history. Some of the profiles are illuminating and fresh. We learn of the many women in conquistador Hern†n CortÇs’s life, including his ill-fated first wife, whom he probably killed, his well-connected second wife, and his captured mistress. Another vignette examines Sister Juana de Asbaje, who in 1693 wrote “the first feminist essay published in the Americas.” In the 1820s, French-Peruvian noblewoman Flora Tristan was similarly inspired by feminism, embracing socialism and traveling the world. Despite these standouts, Morales’s impressionistic glances at various women lack cohesiveness. She also tends to romanticize their contributions: St. Teresa of Avila, who cursed herself for being born a woman, is here lauded for her courageous, mystical feminism. The reality of Teresa’s life was far more complicated. Intriguing tidbits throughout make the book worth reading, but the parts are stronger than the whole.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1998

ISBN: 0-8070-6516-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1998

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An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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With this detailed, versatile cookbook, readers can finally make Momofuku Milk Bar’s inventive, decadent desserts at home, or see what they’ve been missing.

In this successor to the Momofuku cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar’s pastry chef hands over the keys to the restaurant group’s snack-food–based treats, which have had people lining up outside the door of the Manhattan bakery since it opened. The James Beard Award–nominated Tosi spares no detail, providing origin stories for her popular cookies, pies and ice-cream flavors. The recipes are meticulously outlined, with added tips on how to experiment with their format. After “understanding how we laid out this cookbook…you will be one of us,” writes the author. Still, it’s a bit more sophisticated than the typical Betty Crocker fare. In addition to a healthy stock of pretzels, cornflakes and, of course, milk powder, some recipes require readers to have feuilletine and citric acid handy, to perfect the art of quenelling. Acolytes should invest in a scale, thanks to Tosi’s preference of grams (“freedom measurements,” as the friendlier cups and spoons are called, are provided, but heavily frowned upon)—though it’s hard to be too pretentious when one of your main ingredients is Fruity Pebbles. A refreshing, youthful cookbook that will have readers happily indulging in a rising pastry-chef star’s widely appealing treats.    


Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-72049-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Clarkson Potter

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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