A captivating account filled with sharp perspectives on mental illness, childhood trauma, Scientology, and art.

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SHRAPNEL IN THE SAN FERNANDO VALLEY

A Los Angeles artist revisits her volatile life as a Scientologist rocker in this debut memoir.

Es grew up moving around the San Fernando Valley, switching neighborhoods on the whims of her unstable mother—a woman suffering from bipolar disorder who was prone to violent outbursts and suicide attempts. The author’s father, relatively more stable, was nonetheless known for brandishing a gun in public. From her preteen years, Es sought companionship in her brother Mike’s pot-smoking garage band. This incited her obsession with drums; introduced her to a relative of John Travolta’s and thus Scientology; and also led to the loss of her virginity, which offers some of the memoir’s most heart-wrenching, affecting passages. By age 15, Es was working for her family’s business but not “exactly” living at home or going to school. This unconventional upbringing, reminiscent of those found in dark and quirky autobiographies like Augusten Burroughs’ Running with Scissors, takes up the book’s first half. But in recounting her adult life, Es truly taps into intriguing self-reflection. She writes of the moderate success that her band, The Extinct, attained by touring with comedian Pauly Shore and of her brainwashing in Scientology. Being “in a band made up of Scientologists? It’s a cult within a cult,” she writes. Even as it became apparent that she had major health issues and had inherited her mother’s mental instability, the author refused to seek care, opting for a Scientologist’s self-reliance. She provides engrossing details about cults, playing with the peculiar vocabulary of Scientology to craft hilarious and terrifying illustrations of people constructing their own realities. (One memorable fight with a boyfriend named Peaches ended with Es screaming “REFUND CYCLE,” apparently violent words considered a “high crime.”) After her break with the church, the author eventually found stability in a new relationship and her art (samples of which are scattered throughout the book) as well as the voice she used to tell her story, which is simultaneously acerbic, warm, and funny.

A captivating account filled with sharp perspectives on mental illness, childhood trauma, Scientology, and art.

Pub Date: April 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73352-088-1

Page Count: 537

Publisher: Desert Dog Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON

This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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