An undeniably gimmicky premise, but executed with enough humor, heart and authenticity to charm even the most skeptical...

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WHAT MAGAZINES TAUGHT ME ABOUT LOVE, SEX, AND STARTING OVER

“Is it so wrong to want to be bossed around by Helen Gurley Brown?” asks freelance writer Alter (Virgin Territory: Stories from the Road to Womanhood, 2004), who decided that for one year she would follow without question the advice she found in nine women’s magazines.

She was prompted by her reckless behavior in the wake of a divorce. The 37-year-old author was drinking and smoking heavily, splurging on $800 custom-made cowboy boots, bored to tears with her dead-end job at a D.C. legal-publishing firm and having midday sex in her cubicle with a co-worker she didn’t even really like. “Unable to stop the feeding frenzy of poor decisions” on her own, she turned to Cosmopolitan, O, InStyle, Real Simple and others of their ilk. Her experiment began timidly but not without bravado as she methodically tackled such personal issues as beauty, diet, spirit and relationships. Among the interesting cast of real-life characters were Alter’s shrink, Dr. Oskar, who had an unnerving habit of crying right alongside her in sessions; her best friend Jeanne, who loved her enough to tell her, “I don’t think I can be around you any longer”; and handsome Karl, whose overbearing Chinese mother deftly handed out guilt trips and stern advice in equal parts. As the author discovered that she wanted to incorporate Karl into her life for more than just one issue, a slow and powerful metamorphosis took place. Soon Alter began to battle her various neuroses, piecing together a new self image through small acts like learning how to properly wrap a sandwich in Saran wrap and discovering what language is best used to encourage a man to open up. “Anything can change a life that is ready to be changed,” she discovered, and readers will thank the author for providing motivation to make changes of their own.

An undeniably gimmicky premise, but executed with enough humor, heart and authenticity to charm even the most skeptical reader.

Pub Date: July 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-7432-8840-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2008

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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