MY KITCHEN WARS

A memoir by a woman who measures out her life in kitchen utensils, from her father’s orange-juice squeezer to an olive wood spoon used to stir “the stockpot of memories” simmered here. Fussell (The Story of Corn, 1992, etc.) begins with a tour of her kitchen, noting the odd implements in what the French call “the batterie de cuisine,” including crushers, beaters, scrapers and grinders. “Cooking is a brutal business,” she comments, moving on to describe a childhood, if not brutal, at least marked by tragedy and hardship. When she was two, her mother died from ingesting rat poison (“the mouth is the . . . portal to the Other Side,” notes Fussell much later). Moved from the care of loving grandparents into a new home with her father and stepmother, she spent most of the next decade sobbing, until she left for college. There she met and fell in love with then would-be writer Paul Fussell. Characterizing the beginning of her marriage as the “Invasion of the Waring Blenders” (they received two for wedding presents), she discovered sex and lobsters on her honeymoon and chafed at the restraints of being a post-WWII housewife while her husband studied for his Ph.D. Her own postgraduate studies were interrupted frequently as she followed her now professor-husband from university to university, bearing two children and finally settling in Princeton, N.J. There she and other faculty wives were caught in a culture of drinking, sensuous flirtations, and menus with French accents. Her affair with food lasted far longer than her affair with one of her husband’s colleagues. Unable to find a job teaching, she began to write about food, at first in newspapers and then in books. Her marriage ended when she confronted her husband in bed with another man, described in a chapter titled “Cold Cleavers.” Carefully and skillfully written, but curiously unfulfilling, like a rich cassoulet without seasoning. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 1999

ISBN: 0-86547-577-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: North Point/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1999

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

NIGHT

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

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