A worthy memoir for a truly unique individual.

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I WAS BORN THIS WAY

A GAY PREACHER’S JOURNEY THROUGH GOSPEL MUSIC, DISCO STARDOM, AND A MINISTRY IN CHRIST

With the assistance of Ritz (co-author: Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud, A Memoir, 2009, etc.), Bean chronicles the story of his life as a minister and as the singer of the 1977 gay-liberation–themed disco hit, “I Was Born This Way.”

Born to a teenaged mother in 1950s Baltimore, the author was raised by neighbors and suffered an extremely difficult childhood. He was sexually abused at a very young age, by his foster uncle and by other men, and his birth mother died of complications from a botched abortion when he was a teenager. He also struggled with his homosexuality in a religious African-American community. After a suicide attempt at age 14, he came to accept and embrace his sexual orientation. He was also a devout Christian who went on to make a living singing in gospel groups, including the famed Alex Bradford Singers. In 1977, Motown Records asked him to sing the vocals for a disco song entitled “I Was Born This Way, which featured a memorable lyrical hook with a startlingly up-front gay perspective—“I’m happy / I’m carefree / And I’m gay / I was born this way.” It became hugely popular in dance clubs, but when Motown offered him a chance to follow up with an album of heterosexual love songs, he declined, not wanting to portray himself as someone he wasn’t. In 1982, Bean was ordained as a minister and opened his own church, the Unity Fellowship Church of Christ, which was accepting of all sexual orientations. (“God doesn’t care if you’re straight, gay, bi, or transgendered. God contains everything,” he preached.) He also established the Minority AIDS Project to help underserved AIDS patients in Los Angeles. Bean has certainly led a one-of-a-kind life, and his fast-moving, engaging memoir illuminates the 1960s and ’70s gospel world and provides the rare perspective of a homosexual minister. The early chapters, which detail terrible sexual abuse, can be harrowing at times, but the message is insightful and often powerful.

A worthy memoir for a truly unique individual.

Pub Date: June 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4165-9282-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2010

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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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