Those who don’t already have a good idea what love is before beginning the volume won’t have gained one by its conclusion.

READ REVIEW

WHAT LOVE IS

AND WHAT IT COULD BE

In her first book, Jenkins (Philosophy/Univ. of British Columbia, Vancouver) examines romantic love as a phenomenon at the intersection of biology and social convention.

Midway through the first page, the author tosses in an aside that hints at her unique perspective on the subject. “On the mornings when I walk from my boyfriend’s apartment to the house I share with my husband,” she writes, “I sometimes find myself reflecting on the disconnects between my own experience with romantic love and the way romantic love is normally understood in the time and place in which I live.” To a certain extent, the book is a defense of polyamory, which Jenkins views as the next social frontier now that romantic love between same-sex couples has become more socially acceptable. Taking a historical perspective, the author explores the battle between those who believe that biology is the fundamental force determining the experience of romantic love and those who think that the experience is shaped by social forces. Unfortunately, this is such an abstract discussion that just what experience she is referencing is unclear. Though Jenkins often achieves a conversational tone, she also has a fondness for academic language; words like “amatonormativity” (“the idea that romantic love is ideal and a default for everyone”) pepper the volume and make it less than fully accessibly for general readers. The author’s cheerful exhortation to “choose your own adventure” may inspire some readers, but she has taken on such a broad, and familiar, subject that it’s hard to find much new in her analysis. Perhaps if she had confined herself more narrowly and specifically to her own experience, she could have arrived at more significant insights.

Those who don’t already have a good idea what love is before beginning the volume won’t have gained one by its conclusion.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-465-09885-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

THREE WOMEN

Based on eight years of reporting and thousands of hours of interaction, a journalist chronicles the inner worlds of three women’s erotic desires.

In her dramatic debut about “what longing in America looks like,” Taddeo, who has contributed to Esquire, Elle, and other publications, follows the sex lives of three American women. On the surface, each woman’s story could be a soap opera. There’s Maggie, a teenager engaged in a secret relationship with her high school teacher; Lina, a housewife consumed by a torrid affair with an old flame; and Sloane, a wealthy restaurateur encouraged by her husband to sleep with other people while he watches. Instead of sensationalizing, the author illuminates Maggie’s, Lina’s, and Sloane’s erotic experiences in the context of their human complexities and personal histories, revealing deeper wounds and emotional yearnings. Lina’s infidelity was driven by a decade of her husband’s romantic and sexual refusal despite marriage counseling and Lina's pleading. Sloane’s Fifty Shades of Grey–like lifestyle seems far less exotic when readers learn that she has felt pressured to perform for her husband's pleasure. Taddeo’s coverage is at its most nuanced when she chronicles Maggie’s decision to go to the authorities a few years after her traumatic tryst. Recounting the subsequent trial against Maggie’s abuser, the author honors the triumph of Maggie’s courageous vulnerability as well as the devastating ramifications of her community’s disbelief. Unfortunately, this book on “female desire” conspicuously omits any meaningful discussion of social identities beyond gender and class; only in the epilogue does Taddeo mention race and its impacts on women's experiences with sex and longing. Such oversight brings a palpable white gaze to the narrative. Compounded by the author’s occasionally lackluster prose, the book’s flaws compete with its meaningful contribution to #MeToo–era reporting.

Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4229-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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