FREEDOM'S CHILD

THE REMARKABLE LIFE OF A CONFEDERATE GENERAL'S BLACK DAUGHTER

McCray's loving tribute to her mother chronicles one woman's battle for racial equality from Reconstruction to the Depression. That Mary Allen was born in 187? of a white Confederate general and a black housekeeper was not so remarkable in the Old South; that her white father claimed his black offspring was. General John Jones took his light-skinned daughter out for ice cream (treatment denied his darker-skinned son) and paid for her college education. This devotion likely cost him a place in the Confederate pantheon. Ironically, the general (and the ex-slave uncle who raised Mary after her mother's death) instilled the redoubtable confidence and fortitude that fueled Mary's lifelong battle for ``full freedom'' for blacks. She succeeded her late first husband, Gregory Hayes, as president of Virginia Seminary and later founded NAACP chapters in Virginia and Montclair, NJ, where she moved with her second husband. McCray remembers her childhood home abuzz with early NAACP leaders like W.E.B. DuBois and James Weldon Johnson, Harlem Renaissance writers like Sterling Brown and Countee Cullen, and ``Thursday people,'' blacks who visited on their traditional day off from jobs as domestics in white households. Drawing on family memories, stories told by the poet and longtime family friend Anne Spencer, and from the Library of Congress's NAACP archives, McCray fashions an episodic, novelistic portrait of her mother. Some of the invented conversations that bridge gaps in the reported record are stilted and preachy, but McCray largely succeeds in creating a forceful testament to her mother's strength in the fight against discrimination. Though she regularly locked horns with theater managers, school principals, and even US presidents, no incident illustrates Mary's strength of character more than her persistence in speaking daily to a white neighbor, who eventually accepted Mary as her best friend. Such attention to small, everyday details makes this intimate familial memoir more affecting than third-person history. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 28, 1998

ISBN: 1-56512-186-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1998

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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