A gritty, sociologically engaging memoir.

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NEW YORK CITY BUM

A debut memoir that revisits Boglioli’s 10 years in the crack-cocaine subculture of New York City in the 1980s and ’90s.

The author writes that he’d already begun using crack before his career as a chef—first at the prestigious 21 Club and then at the Ritz Carlton Hotel—came to an end. It was the mid-’80s, and 30-something Boglioli was disillusioned with “the Establishment” and mesmerized by the freedom of life as an outcast: “With crack an entire alternative universe opened for me, mutable, unencumbered by the mores and strictures of society, a savage blossoming of emotions and passions too long held in check.” Sometime during his journey through the city’s streets, assorted flophouses, and church-run shelters, he cleaned up and secured a job as the head chef for another prestigious (unnamed) restaurant. With a steady income, he began drinking heavily, he writes, and within a year, he was back on crack; amazingly, he managed to last two years in his job before being fired. Ultimately, Boglioli spent a decade immersing himself in New York’s seedy underbelly, intermittently holding down a variety of day jobs to supplement his government assistance. As his 50s approached, he realized that he likely wouldn’t survive his lifestyle much longer, so he moved to Vermont for a healthier environment. In this memoir, he paints graphic portraits of the mostly hidden (or ignored) denizens of Manhattan—the drunks, the addicts, the sex workers, and the social service employees who served (and underserved) them. It’s also a long, angry, philosophical manifesto condemning what he sees as the hypocrisy and materialism of the dominant society that flourishes in the midst of it all. This book can be profoundly unsettling, and it’s not for the squeamish. Boglioli’s prose is sometimes eloquent, but it’s also heavily embellished and lengthy, and it’s easy to get lost in its ramblings: “the deserted streets belonged to the night owls and the underground moiety, emerging from their rookeries, from under their rocks, their burned-out buildings, their favellas, going about their devious monkey business, moving swiftly, surreptitious and secretive.” A 20-page glossary will help readers through the more esoteric linguistic choices.

A gritty, sociologically engaging memoir.

Pub Date: March 8, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 463

Publisher: Midway Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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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