A charming, if slight, remembrance about the foibles and fun of kid life.

CONFESSIONS OF A HELMET-FREE CHILDHOOD

TRUE-ISH TALES OF AN ANALOG UPBRINGING

A nostalgic debut memoir about marketing communications consultant Finfer’s upbringing.

Finfer delivers 13 vignettes that eloquently capture the essence of childhood, as when she writes, “Bouncing through life as best we could, being a kid could be humiliating one day, exhilarating another…with a whole lot of ordinary days thrown in between.” Her stories range from the ridiculous to the triumphant, beginning with an account of a fall she suffered while being chased by her crush during a game of tag. She comes across in these anecdotes as a mischievous kid who was willing to fib to get out of a math test and steal her neighbor’s fireworks, as long as no one got hurt. Most of these charming vignettes will be familiar to those with similar suburban upbringings: Pin the tail on the donkey was the game at every birthday party, and bringing a pet home unannounced was still a trick that every kid attempted. Each tale also highlights common childhood obstacles. In “Challenged a Bus Route Bully,” for example, Finfer recounts a timeless encounter with “bigger, older, stronger, or weirdly aggressive characters” riding the bus. She describes herself in a relatable way, as “little for my age and far from athletic, having an unusual name, wearing glasses, and sporting an exotic dental appliance,” noting that “I am a rich target for some mean-spirited stuff.” The author is consistently funny throughout this book, reminding readers that childhood bruises don’t always have to be so serious. The tales may not be profound, but they still convey some fine lessons, noting that “by getting it wrong, we find our way to the right.”

A charming, if slight, remembrance about the foibles and fun of kid life.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73430-740-5

Page Count: 68

Publisher: Finfer Group Inc

Review Posted Online: Jan. 31, 2020

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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