The funny bits in this Everyman’s true-life stories will remind readers to look on the bright side of life.

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Snapshots from my Uneventful Life

Debut author Aboulafia highlights absurd and memorable events from his life in humorous autobiographical essays.

The author writes that he envisions memory as a series of still images strung together, and his strategy in this episodic memoir is to provide back stories for those snapshots. One of his first memories of growing up in the Bronx is a moment of disappointment when he fell and crushed a school diorama project. Many of the scenes that follow are more lighthearted, though, with good comic setups and patter. “Soft Ball,” one of the most tightly constructed narratives, relies on the title’s double meaning: while playing softball, the author was hit in the nether regions and endured days of internal bleeding and swelling. Doctors suggested that he might need a testicle removed; luckily, he sought another opinion and avoided surgery. Later pieces echo previous ones in satisfying ways; for example, the sports theme returns in an essay about the author’s father’s forged baseball autographs, while anatomical jesting resumes in a story about picking up his dog from a neutering. In chatty, self-deprecating prose, Aboulafia shakes his head at his youthful high jinks. He realizes how lucky he is that his recklessness never turned out worse; at various points, for example, he ate six moldy Devil Dogs while engrossed in a horror film, ran out of gas on a freezing night in Maine, and had a sewer cover fly toward him on the Long Island Expressway. Even in his adult life, haplessness followed his family: a honeymoon mudslide, an ill-fated kayaking trip, food poisoning, and so on. Although Aboulafia generally plays the clown, one of the best pieces, “Revelation,” is a serious one in which a scrap of shell he spots on a gloomy beach walk restores his sense of wonder: “We can forget that we are blessed with the good things in our lives and that we are surrounded, everywhere, by the divine music of this world. It is there for those of us who choose to hear.”

The funny bits in this Everyman’s true-life stories will remind readers to look on the bright side of life.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2015

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Library Tales Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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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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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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