An enlightening project that exposes how alike we are in our differences.

THE POETRY OF STRANGERS

WHAT I LEARNED TRAVELING AMERICA WITH A TYPEWRITER

A writer travels the U.S. with his typewriter, crafting custom poems for those he meets along the way.

It began as a one-month performance art experiment. Sonia-Wallace had graduated from college, been laid off from his job, and recently suffered a breakup with his first long-term boyfriend, “the one I was with when I came out as gay to my parents.” After hearing a story on the radio about someone who sold poems in the park, he decided to try and earn his rent by busking verse for strangers. He went from setting up his typewriter at sidewalks and swap meets to becoming a writer-in-residence for Amtrak and the Mall of America. What began as something “between an avant-garde solo show and a practical joke” became a surprising passport to the inner sanctum of peoples’ hearts and minds. This heartwarming essay collection chronicles many of the author’s travels, the people he met, and a few of the things he learned in the process. Much like his geographical journeys, Sonia-Wallace’s writing meanders through his own past, across history, and touches on some wildly disparate topics, including politics, evangelicalism, music festivals, and California wildfires, to name a few. While poetic verse is the common denominator of each essay, the theme that ties it all together is how similar we all are at the core. From the 95-year-old widower who became the author’s steady companion on the train to the nonbinary witchcraft collective he visited in Massachusetts, Sonia-Wallace recognized the same thing in just about everyone he met: the longing to be seen and heard. “Most people just need their stories to be heard,” he writes. “And that need in the right word. That we lose something when our stories are not heard. That something not only in us, but in the world, dies.”

An enlightening project that exposes how alike we are in our differences. (first printing of 25,000)

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-287022-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more