A stirring reminder—full of joyful shouts and stern admonitions—that it’s often our wounds that make us strong.

SOUL OF A DIVA

A poetry collection offers a bracing call to be your own hero.

A diva is someone “who exudes great style and personality with confidence, expresses her own style, and doesn’t let others influence who she is or who she wants to be—fierce!” writes Cosmic Girl, who gives no indication of whether that name is a pseudonym. This last word, “fierce,” is the most important one, for understanding both the soul of the diva and Cosmic Girl’s poetry, which is all about channeling ferocity. Not surprisingly, then, the author shows a leonine spirit: “Behold the mighty lion! / Fierce and majestic, / Yet gentle and nurturing. / He is one who will give his all for those close to him / And strike fear into the hearts of those / Who cross him. / Being no stranger to adversity, / The mighty lion pulls strength from / These life lessons / To guide others with his wisdom.” Obviously, the fearsome beast is a complex symbol for the poet: tough yet supportive, intimidating yet wise. These many virtues, found in unexpected combinations, yield power. But make no mistake: That power is hard won; it is a strength gained through adversity. In “Warrior,” Cosmic Girl writes, “Battle! / I am a child witness of rape, / A daughter of divorce, / The child of a mother who was more / A woman of cunning and resourcefulness / Than a nurturer.” The poem goes on: “I am a single mother / Battling a crack-addicted baby daddy, / Trying to make ends meet, / Doing whatever I have to, / To make sure my son is safe, / To be sure he grows up as / A strong black man.” The poem ends: “I may be war-torn, / At times weary, / But never weakening. / I am a warrior!” There is subtle but powerful wordplay here, with “war-torn” giving way to “warrior.” It is our battles that make us resilient. This is a hard lesson, but it is all the more valuable for its hardness.

A stirring reminder—full of joyful shouts and stern admonitions—that it’s often our wounds that make us strong.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5320-8453-9

Page Count: 62

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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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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