A boldly conceived, insightful, but verbose account of a turbulent journey.



In this debut memoir, a woman explores her connection to others, meditating on love and loss, fulfillment and regret.  

Eight essays are offered here, each focusing on a specific relationship that impacted Kemp’s life. The opening essay describes a relationship with Tommy, a man whom the author met through internet dating. Kemp describes the arc of their emotional journey, from the initial thrill, “the arousal I felt, that was beyond words,” to the sadness found in separation, “our souls over-lapped and then tore in the leaving.” Other essays are dedicated to the author’s father, mother, and brother. Kemp bravely faces the memory of her father’s death when she was 13 years old. Meanwhile, in an essay entitled “The Creek—Margaret,” the author describes the evolution of a personal friendship from childhood into adulthood. “Wide Open Spaces, Clara” celebrates the freedom of horse riding and the guidance of a former mentor. In her final essay, Kemp turns her attention to her own odyssey by striving to understand the value of her experiences and recalling her entry into the field of psychology. This is a deeply introspective memoir that painstakingly explores the author’s joys and tribulations. Remarking on her father’s death, Kemp writes poignantly: “I think at one point I imagined my last words to you would be something remarkable, meaningful. I’m sorry they weren’t.” The author’s writing is at its most impactful when it is simple yet loaded with emotions. But Kemp is partial to long, unruly sentences in which feelings become obscured by a glut of words: “I was familiar with the sensations that laced me inside, those which accompany sweeping extremes of responses from others that so often stem from a fixed and embedded wounding that will not nudge.” In contrast to this dense language are moments of startling, sage observation: “We have pieces of ourselves, scab-like and ill-fitting, that need to soften and shed if we are to continue deepening into who we really are.” Kemp is a smart writer who explores emotions with a poetic tenderness bolstered by psychological understanding. Unfortunately, the author’s wordy passages make this an often arduous read.

A boldly conceived, insightful, but verbose account of a turbulent journey.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-73653-588-2

Page Count: 230

Publisher: Sidekick Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2022

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


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 28, 2022

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The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

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The former iCarly star reflects on her difficult childhood.

In her debut memoir, titled after her 2020 one-woman show, singer and actor McCurdy (b. 1992) reveals the raw details of what she describes as years of emotional abuse at the hands of her demanding, emotionally unstable stage mom, Debra. Born in Los Angeles, the author, along with three older brothers, grew up in a home controlled by her mother. When McCurdy was 3, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though she initially survived, the disease’s recurrence would ultimately take her life when the author was 21. McCurdy candidly reconstructs those in-between years, showing how “my mom emotionally, mentally, and physically abused me in ways that will forever impact me.” Insistent on molding her only daughter into “Mommy’s little actress,” Debra shuffled her to auditions beginning at age 6. As she matured and starting booking acting gigs, McCurdy remained “desperate to impress Mom,” while Debra became increasingly obsessive about her daughter’s physical appearance. She tinted her daughter’s eyelashes, whitened her teeth, enforced a tightly monitored regimen of “calorie restriction,” and performed regular genital exams on her as a teenager. Eventually, the author grew understandably resentful and tried to distance herself from her mother. As a young celebrity, however, McCurdy became vulnerable to eating disorders, alcohol addiction, self-loathing, and unstable relationships. Throughout the book, she honestly portrays Debra’s cruel perfectionist personality and abusive behavior patterns, showing a woman who could get enraged by everything from crooked eyeliner to spilled milk. At the same time, McCurdy exhibits compassion for her deeply flawed mother. Late in the book, she shares a crushing secret her father revealed to her as an adult. While McCurdy didn’t emerge from her childhood unscathed, she’s managed to spin her harrowing experience into a sold-out stage act and achieve a form of catharsis that puts her mind, body, and acting career at peace.

The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982185-82-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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