An engaging and controlled account of what love and home can look like.


In this novelistic memoir, a boy is placed in the care of relatives in an idyllic landscape.

Lanny’s father left town. His mother told him it would be a while before he came back. It wasn’t long before Mr. Allen moved in, a hard-drinking, short-tempered man who beat Lanny with his belt for just mentioning his father. After the assault, the boy’s mother drove the 5-year-old Lanny to the country to stay with Uncle Jim. “I’m leaving him American. And that’s how I want him back. American,” his mother said to Jim right before she drove away. “Not one single mention of C-H-I-N-You-Know-What.” Jim and his sister, Aunt MayLynne, were a strange pair: The former was a habitual collector of strays; the latter bedridden with “tired blood.” Jim taught Lanny how to fish and catch frogs, and he gave him a puppy, Skip, to keep him company. Jim also told Lanny the tale of how he lost a finger to the Big Snapper, a monstrous turtle that lived in the lake. The boy quickly figured out how to navigate the woods and water, reading the signs of the creatures that lived there. He learned to distrust the “summer people” who blundered through during certain months of the year. His uncle and aunt both told their nephew stories: Jim, about growing up with Lanny’s father and grandfather; MayLynne, tales from the old country where the boy’s grandfather was born. Encoded in these yarns—as well as the experiences Lanny had in the woods surrounding the family cabin—were lessons for how to exist in the world as well as a guide to who the boy was and where he had come from. But could these kindly relatives keep Lanny safe beyond the day when his mother inevitably returned to collect him?

Love tells the story from Lanny’s young perspective, giving it a gloss of wonder and partial understanding. The lucid prose reflects this naiveté: “Sometimes, on the path in the main woods, Skip would catch a scent, and I’d have to run to keep up with him, waving the branches and the brambles out of my face so they didn’t scratch. Most times, he’d just tree a squirrel, but once he had a raccoon on a branch just over his head. The raccoon was hissing at Skip something terrible.” The author bills the book as “the true story of a false childhood,” but the work is far more novelistic than memoiristic. He re-creates scenes and dialogue and resists the urge to explain or view events through hindsight. Indeed, the volume reads much like a children’s novel, such as Wilson Rawls’ Where the Red Fern Grows. This is not a flaw. The narrative has a subtle yet emotionally satisfying shape to it, and young readers will enjoy watching Lanny acquire skills and develop healthy relationships. The handling of Lanny’s Chinese ancestry—which is very rarely discussed—and the effective blending of Chinese traditions with woodsy American ones complicate this otherwise familiar story of a mid-20th-century boyhood.

An engaging and controlled account of what love and home can look like.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: 205

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2020

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The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

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The former iCarly star reflects on her difficult childhood.

In her debut memoir, titled after her 2020 one-woman show, singer and actor McCurdy (b. 1992) reveals the raw details of what she describes as years of emotional abuse at the hands of her demanding, emotionally unstable stage mom, Debra. Born in Los Angeles, the author, along with three older brothers, grew up in a home controlled by her mother. When McCurdy was 3, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though she initially survived, the disease’s recurrence would ultimately take her life when the author was 21. McCurdy candidly reconstructs those in-between years, showing how “my mom emotionally, mentally, and physically abused me in ways that will forever impact me.” Insistent on molding her only daughter into “Mommy’s little actress,” Debra shuffled her to auditions beginning at age 6. As she matured and starting booking acting gigs, McCurdy remained “desperate to impress Mom,” while Debra became increasingly obsessive about her daughter’s physical appearance. She tinted her daughter’s eyelashes, whitened her teeth, enforced a tightly monitored regimen of “calorie restriction,” and performed regular genital exams on her as a teenager. Eventually, the author grew understandably resentful and tried to distance herself from her mother. As a young celebrity, however, McCurdy became vulnerable to eating disorders, alcohol addiction, self-loathing, and unstable relationships. Throughout the book, she honestly portrays Debra’s cruel perfectionist personality and abusive behavior patterns, showing a woman who could get enraged by everything from crooked eyeliner to spilled milk. At the same time, McCurdy exhibits compassion for her deeply flawed mother. Late in the book, she shares a crushing secret her father revealed to her as an adult. While McCurdy didn’t emerge from her childhood unscathed, she’s managed to spin her harrowing experience into a sold-out stage act and achieve a form of catharsis that puts her mind, body, and acting career at peace.

The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982185-82-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.


A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2022

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