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A WRINKLE IN THE LONG GRAY LINE

WHEN CONSCIENCE AND CONVENTION COLLIDED

An engrossing memoir written with admirable candor and incisive self-reflection.

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Donham remembers his tumultuous time at the West Point Academy during the Vietnam War and his contentious decision to declare conscientious objector status in this memoir.

When the author was accepted into West Point in 1967—he was merely 17 years old—he was largely motivated by practical concerns. He wanted to go to college and wasn’t sure his parents could afford it, and going to West Point deferred active duty while allowing him to graduate as an officer. However, he was not immune to the institution’s venerable prestige: “There was an element of romance to West Point, which from the outside made it easy to overlook the nitty-gritty. Cadets in precise formation, the dignity of the gray stone buildings, following in the footsteps of legends like MacArthur and Eisenhower—it seemed like a pinnacle.” However, he found the pressure of the discipline and competitiveness punishing and the brutal hazing by upperclassmen humiliating. Later, during his junior year, he experienced a “visceral reaction” to bayonet training, during which he fully recognized that the purpose of the academy was to prepare men to kill other men, a sensitivity affectingly described by the author. A deeply religious young man, the author became increasingly repulsed by the “moral and ethical irrationality of war.” On Christian grounds, he objected not only to the Vietnam War in particular, but to all war. Eventually, Donham concluded he could no longer remain at the academy, or in the United States Army, and sought to declare himself a conscientious objector, to date the only cadet in West Point’s history to do so. While the author’s remembrance can get bogged down in prosaic details (the reader tires of the gratuitously granular and repetitive account of the “routine struggle of cadet life”), Donham’s portrayal of his moral dilemma is deeply compelling. The response of West Point—they went to extraordinary lengths to discredit him—is lucidly depicted and reveals a darker side to the hallowed patriotism of the elite institution. The author’s experience is a unique one, and his reflection on it is thoughtful and forthcoming.

An engrossing memoir written with admirable candor and incisive self-reflection.

Pub Date: April 10, 2023

ISBN: 9781667874326

Page Count: 254

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2023

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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TANQUERAY

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

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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 27, 2022

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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LOVE, PAMELA

A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.

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The iconic model tells the story of her eventful life.

According to the acknowledgments, this memoir started as "a fifty-page poem and then grew into hundreds of pages of…more poetry." Readers will be glad that Anderson eventually turned to writing prose, since the well-told anecdotes and memorable character sketches are what make it a page-turner. The poetry (more accurately described as italicized notes-to-self with line breaks) remains strewn liberally through the pages, often summarizing the takeaway or the emotional impact of the events described: "I was / and still am / an exceptionally / easy target. / And, / I'm proud of that." This way of expressing herself is part of who she is, formed partly by her passion for Anaïs Nin and other writers; she is a serious maven of literature and the arts. The narrative gets off to a good start with Anderson’s nostalgic memories of her childhood in coastal Vancouver, raised by very young, very wild, and not very competent parents. Here and throughout the book, the author displays a remarkable lack of anger. She has faced abuse and mistreatment of many kinds over the decades, but she touches on the most appalling passages lightly—though not so lightly you don't feel the torment of the media attention on the events leading up to her divorce from Tommy Lee. Her trip to the pages of Playboy, which involved an escape from a violent fiance and sneaking across the border, is one of many jaw-dropping stories. In one interesting passage, Julian Assange's mother counsels Anderson to desexualize her image in order to be taken more seriously as an activist. She decided that “it was too late to turn back now”—that sexy is an inalienable part of who she is. Throughout her account of this kooky, messed-up, enviable, and often thrilling life, her humility (her sons "are true miracles, considering the gene pool") never fails her.

A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2023

ISBN: 9780063226562

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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