Next book



A smartly written and revelatory reexamination of readers’ most intimate experiences.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

A guide offers a new, comprehensive evaluation of the concept and practice of consent.

In this sweeping reappraisal of the whole world of giving and receiving, of touching and being touched, Martin attempts to undercut and offset readers’ long-standing assumptions by posing a disarmingly simple question they should ask others: “How do you want me to touch you?” In the author’s extensive experience interviewing people as a sex educator, she often finds that this question causes confusion. “The most common thing that happened when people made this offer was that they forgot they could set limits or say no,” she writes. “They sometimes assumed that they had to do whatever their partner asked of them.” Martin draws her readers’ attention to their own poor training by society in this very question of regulating and experiencing touch and contact. She points to the fact that people are trained early in childhood to suppress their ownership of their physical actions: clean your plate (even if you’re not hungry); let grandma kiss you (even if you don’t want her to). She contends that most people extend this deficient training into their adult lives: “Not only do we go along with something, we often try to make ourselves like it more.” To break this momentum, she proposes not only the simple question “How do you want me to touch you?” but also its follow-up: “How do you want to touch me?” These principles are further elaborated throughout the book.

Martin, who founded the School of Consent in 2018, repeatedly makes it clear that the clarifying concepts she’s outlining will at first seem peculiar to her readers. They will challenge them, she asserts: “Long-held assumptions will crack open, and there will be insights that shake you up.” She elaborates on the four “quadrants” of giving and receiving touch—“the Serving Quadrant,” “the Taking,” “the Accepting,” and “the Allowing”—and their permutations (are you touching someone for your pleasure or theirs? Are you allowing yourself to be touched for your pleasure or theirs?). And she continuously reassures her readers that this fundamental realignment of old reflexes will be challenging: “It tends to feel odd, sometimes foreign, occasionally impossible, but when it clicks, there is often a feeling of relief and of recovering something you had lost.” She compensates for this strangeness with, among other things, a marvelously open and welcoming prose style, clearly breaking down her concepts in order to help her readers construct a new idea of what touching is—and, by extension, sex and all issues of consent. She stresses that the instructions she’s explaining are in fact extremely simple—the hardest part for many of her clients is merely taking them seriously enough to practice them. Admittedly, many readers will need this encouragement; despite the clarity of the author’s prose, her explanations can often feel jarringly alien. Surely, some readers will think, there are aspects of interpersonal touching that are basically instinctual; surely, it can seem oddly artificial to dissect every aspect of touching so analytically. The implicit response of Martin’s valuable book, written with Dalzen, is simple: Readers can—and must—do more than just follow their instincts.

A smartly written and revelatory reexamination of readers’ most intimate experiences.

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64-388308-3

Page Count: 422

Publisher: Luminare Press

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

Next book


A marvelously tender memoir on suicide and loss.

An essayist and novelist turns her attention to the heartache of a friend’s suicide.

Crosley’s memoir is not only a joy to read, but also a respectful and philosophical work about a colleague’s recent suicide. “All burglaries are alike, but every burglary is uninsured in its own way,” she begins, in reference to the thief who stole the jewelry from her New York apartment in 2019. Among the stolen items was her grandmother’s “green dome cocktail ring with tiers of tourmaline (think kryptonite, think dish soap).” She wrote those words two months after the burglary and “one month since the violent death of my dearest friend.” That friend was Russell Perreault, referred to only by his first name, her boss when she was a publicist at Vintage Books. Russell, who loved “cheap trinkets” from flea markets, had “the timeless charm of a movie star, the competitive edge of a Spartan,” and—one of many marvelous details—a “thatch of salt-and-pepper hair, seemingly scalped from the roof of an English country house.” Over the years, the two became more than boss and subordinate, teasing one another at work, sharing dinners, enjoying “idyllic scenes” at his Connecticut country home, “a modest farmhouse with peeling paint and fragile plumbing…the house that Windex forgot.” It was in the barn at that house that Russell took his own life. Despite the obvious difference in the severity of robbery and suicide, Crosley fashions a sharp narrative that finds commonality in the dislocation brought on by these events. The book is no hagiography—she notes harassment complaints against Russell for thoughtlessly tossed-off comments, plus critiques of the “deeply antiquated and often backward” publishing industry—but the result is a warm remembrance sure to resonate with anyone who has experienced loss.

A marvelously tender memoir on suicide and loss.

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2024

ISBN: 9780374609849

Page Count: 208

Publisher: MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023

Next book


A sweet final word from an actor who leaves a legacy of compassion and kindness.

The late actor offers a gentle guide for living with more purpose, love, and joy.

Mixing poetry, prescriptive challenges, and elements of memoir, Heche (1969-2022) delivers a narrative that is more encouraging workbook than life story. The author wants to share what she has discovered over the course of a life filled with abuse, advocacy, and uncanny turning points. Her greatest discovery? Love. “Open yourself up to love and transform kindness from a feeling you extend to those around you to actions that you perform for them,” she writes. “Only by caring can we open ourselves up to the universe, and only by opening up to the universe can we fully experience all the wonders that it holds, the greatest of which is love.” Throughout the occasionally overwrought text, Heche is heavy on the concept of care. She wants us to experience joy as she does, and she provides a road map for how to get there. Instead of slinking away from Hollywood and the ridicule that she endured there, Heche found the good and hung on, with Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford starring as particularly shining knights in her story. Some readers may dismiss this material as vapid Hollywood stuff, but Heche’s perspective is an empathetic blend of Buddhism (minimize suffering), dialectical behavioral therapy (tolerating distress), Christianity (do unto others), and pre-Socratic philosophy (sufficient reason). “You’re not out to change the whole world, but to increase the levels of love and kindness in the world, drop by drop,” she writes. “Over time, these actions wear away the coldness, hate, and indifference around us as surely as water slowly wearing away stone.” Readers grieving her loss will take solace knowing that she lived her love-filled life on her own terms. Heche’s business and podcast partner, Heather Duffy, writes the epilogue, closing the book on a life well lived.

A sweet final word from an actor who leaves a legacy of compassion and kindness.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 9781627783316

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Viva Editions

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2023

Close Quickview