A FORK IN THE ROAD

A STORY OF CHRONIC ILLNESS, FORTITUDE, FAITH AND OUR NATION

In this memoir, a blind, retired judge revisits his battle with chronic illness and the loss of his sight.

Brown opens his second memoir (Blind Justice, 2009) with the chilling line, “Going blind is like dying except you are still alive.” He then recounts his battle with Behcet’s Syndrome and becoming blind, spanning from his undergraduate days in the Triangle area of North Carolina, to his transition to retirement from the law profession where he was a district court judge, imparting advice from his life experiences along the way. After battling to stave off his impending blindness for more than a decade, Brown must physically and mentally adjust to life as a disabled person and deal with other life changes, or “train wrecks” as he calls them. He delivers some practical advice about handling loss and making good decisions about health care, but his focus could be better controlled and his audience narrowed down in order to avoid alienating some readers. While the book is filled with clichéd phrases, several stand-out lines, such as the opening one, bring emotion to Brown’s ordeal. The chapters alternate between encyclopedia-like recall of people and places associated with his life in Durham and advice for others facing a chronic disease. Photographs interspersed in the text and quotes beginning each chapter feel elementary, but Brown showcases his writing chops in the standout chapter “The Sightless End Game.” In it, he undergoes a series of cataract surgeries with the hope of being able to continue to see the face of his firstborn daughter and eventually memorize the face of his second daughter before he loses his sight completely, and this makes for heartwarming, emotionally charged scenes. The book concludes first with a chapter on Brown’s ideas for decreasing the national debt and then a final chapter on hope and love. While the book’s scope could have benefited from a tighter focus, the memoir has moments where there is much to learn from Brown’s wisdom. An ambitious memoir with a unique viewpoint regarding disabilities and life’s “train wrecks.”

 

Pub Date: March 27, 2011

ISBN: 978-1460937617

Page Count: 251

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2012

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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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