The first major biography since Hayden Herrera’s 1983 work presents the artist in all her ferocious complexity.

An art historian parses the famed artist’s complicated psychological and emotional states while in America as a young wife and emerging artist in the early 1930s.

Stahr (Modern American and Contemporary Art/Univ. of San Francisco) captures Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) in all her ambiguity at age 23, when she embarked on her first American tour with her new husband, famous muralist Diego Rivera. As the author shows, she moved into this uneasy public role while also passionately pursuing her own difficult work. Diminutive in stature and unwell due to an early bout of polio and a terrible car accident in her late teens, Kahlo, like Rivera, was deeply devoted to her Mexican identity as well as socialist ideals. These beliefs would both alienate their American patrons, as in Rivera’s case, and attract the avant-garde, as in Kahlo’s case in New York, where she had her first solo show in 1938. In 1930, visiting San Francisco for the first time, as Rivera painted his commission for the California School of Fine Arts, and then through their stints in Detroit and New York over the next three years, Kahlo devoured the strange sights and used her experiences to inspire her art. She made friends with women artists especially—e.g., Dorothea Lange, Lucienne Bloch, and Georgia O’Keeffe—experimented with her Indigenous (now iconic) wardrobe as she became a darling subject of photographers, grew embittered by her husband’s serial infidelities, and had a devastating miscarriage. All of this served as fuel for her early groundbreaking portraits and self-portraits, which were full of symbolism and blood and gore. Stahr sees the emergent artist’s powers explode in My Birth, an unsettling painting from 1932 that addressed Kahlo’s miscarriage, the recent death of her mother, and her own self-creation. The author’s deep study of Kahlo’s symbolic layering is highly informative, though some of the detail may be overwhelming for readers not versed in art history.

The first major biography since Hayden Herrera’s 1983 work presents the artist in all her ferocious complexity.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11338-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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