An appealing literary memoir.

STUDYING WITH MISS BISHOP

MEMOIRS FROM A YOUNG WRITER’S LIFE

A poet's reflections on memorable individuals.

In deft, graceful essays, poet, literary critic, and librettist Gioia recalls six “people of potent personality” who shaped his vocation: Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Fitzgerald, who taught him as a graduate student at Harvard; John Cheever, whom Gioia met at Stanford, where he was studying business; writer James Dickey; Ronald Perry, a little-known poet whom Gioia never met; and the author’s Mexican uncle, who died when Gioia was a child and whose library of books, stored in Gioia’s family’s apartment, inspired his reading and his aspiration to be a writer. No one among his relatives or teachers, he reveals, “ever encouraged my reading or intellectual pursuits,” but he was encouraged by his uncle’s presence, felt through the books he left. The author pursued his literary ambitions at Harvard, where two professors stood out: the “prim, impeccably coiffured” Bishop, the “most self-effacing writer I have ever met”; and Fitzgerald, whose “many strengths harmonized so naturally that one simply enjoyed the music of his company. Being with him, I understood for the first time how legendary pilgrims recognized their next master.” Both contrasted favorably with their celebrated, hugely popular colleague Robert Lowell. Gioia preferred Bishop’s and Fitzgerald’s modesty and humility, qualities he found in Cheever, too, who had come to Stanford on a campus visit with his son. Cheever seemed to Gioia “more bright young man than sagacious patriarch,” and his “intelligence was enlivening.” An unfortunate meeting with Dickey came after Gioia published a negative review of one of his books: “It is often better not to meet the writers you admire.” Gioia’s connection with Perry also came from reviewing; Perry wrote to thank him for an appreciative review, and the two continued to correspond, planning to meet, finally, in New York. Gioia’s portrait of this “invisible poet” and their role in one another’s lives serves as a moving elegy.

An appealing literary memoir.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-58988-151-8

Page Count: 186

Publisher: Paul Dry Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

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I'M GLAD MY MOM DIED

The former iCarly star reflects on her difficult childhood.

In her debut memoir, titled after her 2020 one-woman show, singer and actor McCurdy (b. 1992) reveals the raw details of what she describes as years of emotional abuse at the hands of her demanding, emotionally unstable stage mom, Debra. Born in Los Angeles, the author, along with three older brothers, grew up in a home controlled by her mother. When McCurdy was 3, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though she initially survived, the disease’s recurrence would ultimately take her life when the author was 21. McCurdy candidly reconstructs those in-between years, showing how “my mom emotionally, mentally, and physically abused me in ways that will forever impact me.” Insistent on molding her only daughter into “Mommy’s little actress,” Debra shuffled her to auditions beginning at age 6. As she matured and starting booking acting gigs, McCurdy remained “desperate to impress Mom,” while Debra became increasingly obsessive about her daughter’s physical appearance. She tinted her daughter’s eyelashes, whitened her teeth, enforced a tightly monitored regimen of “calorie restriction,” and performed regular genital exams on her as a teenager. Eventually, the author grew understandably resentful and tried to distance herself from her mother. As a young celebrity, however, McCurdy became vulnerable to eating disorders, alcohol addiction, self-loathing, and unstable relationships. Throughout the book, she honestly portrays Debra’s cruel perfectionist personality and abusive behavior patterns, showing a woman who could get enraged by everything from crooked eyeliner to spilled milk. At the same time, McCurdy exhibits compassion for her deeply flawed mother. Late in the book, she shares a crushing secret her father revealed to her as an adult. While McCurdy didn’t emerge from her childhood unscathed, she’s managed to spin her harrowing experience into a sold-out stage act and achieve a form of catharsis that puts her mind, body, and acting career at peace.

The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982185-82-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

TANQUERAY

A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2022

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