A well-illustrated but uneven account of an immigrant’s life in 20th-century America.

RUNNING THE RACE ONE DAY AT A TIME

A TESTIMONY OF FAITH

An Austrian immigrant recounts his intricate journey in this debut memoir.

Jeremenko, the son of Austrian refugee camp immigrants who came to America in 1951 when he was 6 years old, structures his book around a series of short vignettes drawn from his memories, supplemented with a lifetime of vivid photographs. The author’s parents were “displaced persons” who ended up as farm laborers in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The bulk of the beginning of Jeremenko’s memoir describes the “typical Americana” of his Midwest upbringing as a healthy, uproarious immigrant boy with a distant, hard-drinking father and a caring, competent mother who did all the housework, child rearing, and extensive gardening. The author grew up, got a job at the General Telephone Company, and then joined the Marine Corps. He shipped out to Vietnam, where he saw a good deal of action and lost some friends. Jeremenko recounts that this preyed on his mind even decades later (“I carry the guilt of all my team members that I lost when I was in Vietnam”). He returned to civilian life, and much of the rest of the volume consists of his accounts of growing older and having children and then grandchildren. In his heartfelt book, the author shares some intriguing details about his experiences in America and Vietnam. But his writing throughout is a bit bland, which is a drawback since the types of memories he’s relating are seldom inherently dramatic. He writes about the time his father chased local boys who were stealing fruit from the family’s garden, for instance, and about his childhood filled with rotary phones, record players, and black-and-white TVs. Unfortunately, his recollections rarely say anything striking about these things. And his frequent invocations of his passionate Christian faith can sometimes seem artificial: “Isn’t it amazing what a difference sixty-plus years makes in the planting of a small evergreen tree in our yard to remind me of Christmas year-round?” he asks at one point. “Thank you, Jesus!” The end result is a narrated family photo album—priceless to Jeremenko’s own loved ones and friends.

A well-illustrated but uneven account of an immigrant’s life in 20th-century America.

Pub Date: May 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-66320-137-9

Page Count: 190

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2020

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

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I'M GLAD MY MOM DIED

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.

TANQUERAY

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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