A compelling story about the author’s biological and adoptive families and how they shaped his sense of self.

A FAMILY APART

SLEUTHING THE MYSTERIES OF ABANDONMENT, ADOPTION AND DNA

An adoptee’s memoir of finding his own place in the world.

In this debut, Steffen traces his personal history, revealing layer upon layer of hidden truths as he unravels the stories he’s grown up with. He dates the events in his life from “the disappearance,” when his mother abandoned her three children and left rural Iowa. This event, coupled with his father’s unwillingness to care for his children, was a defining moment in the author’s life, as it led to the Steffen family adopting him and his sister. His stories of growing up with his adoptive parents, who belonged to a strict religious movement and weren’t inclined to show affection, fill this book, as do tales of his own teenage rebellion and gradual maturity. By the time he reached adulthood, Steffen found himself driven by a need to sort out the mysteries of his birth family, and he tracked down surviving relatives and other near-strangers who supplied crucial details. It’s a complex, sometimes-tragic story, and along the way, he slowly builds relationships with half-siblings, aunts, and more distant relatives and discovers new information about his mother and father. Although the narrative moves slowly in the opening chapters, it finds a steady pace after Steffen begins his sleuthing. Readers learn the truth bit by bit, just as the author did, and his personal growth is just as important as the facts he uncovers. Steffen’s descriptions are sharply drawn, particularly of the rural communities he visited during his search: “A first run of American Graffiti or Rocky or Star Wars seemed entirely plausible,” he writes. He also offers insights into his own character (“I have the right to remain silent, but I don’t have the ability”) that will gain readers’ sympathies as he unveils his past and embraces his present.

A compelling story about the author’s biological and adoptive families and how they shaped his sense of self.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-1570741357

Page Count: 417

Publisher: Greyden Press, LLC

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2015

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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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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