An intriguingly honest portrayal of an expat’s life-altering personal growth in Asia.

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FINDING VENERABLE MOTHER

A memoir of an American woman’s unexpected journey toward spiritual healing in Thailand.

In 2005 debut author Rasicot moved from northern California to Thailand, where her husband, Randall, had accepted a three-year work assignment. In time, the couple and their 13-year-old son, Kris, settled into a new life in an expat community, complete with a live-in maid and the company of other Americans. The novelty of the experience wore off, however, and Rasicot felt aimless as “the initial honeymoon period of being in Thailand had started to fade, and a familiar gray cloud of depression began to envelop me.” She decided to attend a conference on women’s issues in Bangkok, where she met Venerable Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, a Thai college professor–turned–Buddhist nun, who ran a monastery or vihara for women. The author spent time in the monastery, and it set her on the path toward finding what she calls her “authentic self—beyond the prescribed roles of wife and mother.” Raised Jewish, Rasicot learned the ways of Buddhism, interviewed Dhammananda, and reflected on her own life, knowing that soon enough she and her family would return to California. With fewer than 250 pages, the book proves a swift foray into a foreign place, but it’s full of information. Rasicot offers details on everything from living in an expat community (a place where high school students drive golf carts to school) to setting out at dawn on an “alms round” (when monks carrying round bowls receive offerings of rice from donors who believe their act “builds positive karma for this life and the next”). The resulting story is highly personal, with some aspects developed better than others. For all the challenges the author faced, her descriptions of a shopping expedition with her sister are not exactly captivating. Regardless of the subject matter, however, a genuine, unguarded tone permeates the work. Rasicot writes candidly of her disagreements with her husband, of recollections of her mother, and of a lesson she learned from the “Venerable Mother” Dhammananda: “When we go forward with a truly open heart,” she writes, “faith, forgiveness, and love are possible.”   

An intriguingly honest portrayal of an expat’s life-altering personal growth in Asia.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63152-702-9

Page Count: 232

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 11, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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