An engaging travel narrative for both language lovers and general audiences.

MOTHER TONGUE

MY FAMILY'S GLOBE-TROTTING QUEST TO DREAM IN MANDARIN, LAUGH IN ARABIC, AND SING IN SPANISH

A blogger and documentary filmmaker’s account of how she and her family became globe-trotting foreign language learners.

Gilbert decided that she, her husband, and her child needed to become multilingual global citizens rather than remain “all-American monolinguals”—not just to enhance their cultural literacy, but also to give their young son, Cole, a cognitive edge. The author’s father had suffered from dementia, and she discovered research that showed how lifelong bilinguals “could stave off the effects of dementia by four to five years.” The “mad” project she envisioned would eventually take her family to Beijing, Beirut, and Puerto Vallarta, where they would learn three languages through focused study and cultural immersion. Her idealism, however, foundered almost immediately after she arrived in China. Studying Chinese, one of the hardest of all modern languages, “felt like hitting my head against a brick wall,” and Beijing was so polluted that the family had to stay indoors most of the time. Yet by the time they left for Beirut a few months later, they had managed to learn the rudiments of Chinese. Although Cole went through a worrisome “silent period” before he began to speak Arabic, Gilbert soon discovered that the language “was hard, but it wasn’t that hard.” However, political instability and the constant threat of violence drove the family on to Mexico, where Gilbert gave birth to her second child and learned to speak Spanish with ease. Two years after they had begun their journey, the family decided to settle more permanently in Barcelona, where they could “form [their] life…and community” around a second culture they could love and call their own. Informed by research into language and cognitive development, Gilbert’s book is not only the record of a lively and unusual adventure. It is also a celebration of a family’s determination to venture together, for better or worse, into the unknown.

An engaging travel narrative for both language lovers and general audiences.

Pub Date: May 17, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-59240-792-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avery

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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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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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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