A sturdy transitional volume that finds Barnes reflecting on her first and anticipating her next.

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MALAYA

ESSAYS ON FREEDOM

A collection of essays extends and expands on the themes introduced in the author’s highly regarded memoir, Monsoon Mansion (2018).

Barnes’ first book introduced a gifted writer with a compelling story about her life in the Philippines. After her father left the family, her mother became unstable. The author was adopted by an American family, but the law said she was too old for the necessary paperwork, so she remained an undocumented teenager, working jobs that paid her in cash—e.g., cleaning houses, taking care of children, working at a laundry and at a cafe. Her schoolwork promised a pathway out, and she did well, particularly after switching to a journalism major and finding her voice and the stories that only she could tell. Barnes married a fellow graduate student, a white man raised in the South, who was the first in his family to marry a woman of color. Then the couple had a baby girl, a mixed-race child in the South, and questions of belonging and assimilation became exponentially more complicated. “He’s well aware of the sadness of this place,” the author writes of her husband, “how lonely it must be for me—an outsider who married someone who also feels like an outsider.” He says that it kills him to know that here, I talk, but without the freedom to speak about topics that interest me.” Though childbirth brought emotional trauma and postpartum depression, it also opened the creative floodgates. “My body had given birth to a human, but my body also wanted to expel something more,” writes Barnes. “It wanted to flush out the accumulation of hurt and sorrow and fear, three things all immigrants pack with them….My memories let out onto paper and bled onto the page as words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs.” Those paragraphs became essays, and those collected here have enough cohesion and continuity that they could almost pass as a second volume of memoir.

A sturdy transitional volume that finds Barnes reflecting on her first and anticipating her next.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-9330-9

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Little A

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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

NIGHT

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

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