A dense but insightful treatise that views manhood through the lens of men’s writing.




Richards, the author of Free Speech and the Politics of Identity (1999), reflects on gay identity and patriarchy in this blend of memoir and literary criticism.

Why were white American men so eager to vote for Donald Trump, as most of them did in 2016? This is the question Richards proposes at the beginning of this memoir, in which he uses his own life experiences to examine what he sees as the pernicious psychology of the American patriarchy. “I write as a man who, in the course of his life and work, has become acutely aware of the harms that patriarchy does to men,” he says. “Though seemingly in the interests of white, privileged men such as myself, patriarchy exacts a huge cost on men, not only gay as I am but straight men as well—a cost often hidden by men themselves.” He believes that trauma is often the way that men are initiated into the patriarchy—a trauma that demands to be redressed. Beginning with Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville, Richards tracks the development of the recognition of patriarchy in English-language literature (other authors explored include Henry James, George Santayana, James Baldwin, and Philip Roth, plus filmmakers like John Ford and Clint Eastwood), analyzing the ways in which male artists, gay and straight, have succeeded (or failed) in bucking the order. He also delves into his personal life as a gay Italian American boy coming of age in the 1950s and 1960s, and the ways in which his traumas created a lens through which he perceived manhood. Richard’s prose is precise but academic, particularly when he is writing about other writers. “The consequence of the psychological damage that American patriarchal homophobia had inflicted on Santayana was…that his personal and political ethics uncritically absorbed patriarchy as the model for all relationships, which he carried into his philosophy—an odd mixture of naturalism (Spinoza) and Platonism.” The book is heavy on criticism and comparatively light on memoir—though by the end the reader has a decent sense of Richards and his life. His arguments and conclusions are quite compelling, particularly for those who have never thought about the patriarchy’s effect on men.

A dense but insightful treatise that views manhood through the lens of men’s writing.

Pub Date: June 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-79603-728-9

Page Count: 410

Publisher: XlibrisUS

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

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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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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.


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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