A delightful slice of NASA life.

The inner workings of NASA through an enthusiastic account of an interplanetary probe to a distant moon.

Although space travel hasn’t enraptured the U.S. since the 1969 Apollo moon landing, NASA continues to accomplish great feats, and more are in the offing, including this book’s subject: the 2024 launch of a multibillion-dollar spacecraft to explore Jupiter’s moon Europa. To puzzled readers, journalist and Army veteran Brown explains that the Galileo probe, which orbited Jupiter from 1995 to 2003, discovered a liquid water ocean beneath Europa’s icy surface. Life requires liquid water, and despite a torrent of probes and landers, none has turned up on Mars. No president since Lyndon Johnson has shown a genuine interest in space travel, a feeling shared by Congress with rare exceptions, including one of Brown’s unlikely heroes, a conservative from Texas. Furthermore, when Congress doles out tax money, anything involving astronauts takes priority. Even space buffs struggle to name a discovery produced by the manned space station, but robotic probes often return spectacular discoveries. Despite this, unmanned programs struggle for attention in this “astronaut-led, astronaut-centric organization,” but its scientists and engineers contain many brilliant workaholics. Brown delivers breathless biographies of a dozen as he describes their effort, now passing 20 years, to explore Europa. Since the 1990s, they have seen several proposals approved and then killed, but the Europa Clipper mission will probably happen for the only reason space programs happen: Congress approved the money. Readers will roll their eyes but keep reading as Brown engagingly describes the cutthroat NASA political landscape, in which Mars gets the most attention, leaving advocates of other planets fuming. Leading-edge technology usually goes over budget, but Congress rarely makes up the difference, so high priority space programs that run short extract money from other programs and sometimes get them cancelled. Few experts expect the 2024 launch date to hold, but some time after 2030, we may find evidence of fish on Europa.

A delightful slice of NASA life.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-265442-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Custom House/Morrow

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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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 27, 2022


The iconic model tells the story of her eventful life.

According to the acknowledgments, this memoir started as "a fifty-page poem and then grew into hundreds of pages of…more poetry." Readers will be glad that Anderson eventually turned to writing prose, since the well-told anecdotes and memorable character sketches are what make it a page-turner. The poetry (more accurately described as italicized notes-to-self with line breaks) remains strewn liberally through the pages, often summarizing the takeaway or the emotional impact of the events described: "I was / and still am / an exceptionally / easy target. / And, / I'm proud of that." This way of expressing herself is part of who she is, formed partly by her passion for Anaïs Nin and other writers; she is a serious maven of literature and the arts. The narrative gets off to a good start with Anderson’s nostalgic memories of her childhood in coastal Vancouver, raised by very young, very wild, and not very competent parents. Here and throughout the book, the author displays a remarkable lack of anger. She has faced abuse and mistreatment of many kinds over the decades, but she touches on the most appalling passages lightly—though not so lightly you don't feel the torment of the media attention on the events leading up to her divorce from Tommy Lee. Her trip to the pages of Playboy, which involved an escape from a violent fiance and sneaking across the border, is one of many jaw-dropping stories. In one interesting passage, Julian Assange's mother counsels Anderson to desexualize her image in order to be taken more seriously as an activist. She decided that “it was too late to turn back now”—that sexy is an inalienable part of who she is. Throughout her account of this kooky, messed-up, enviable, and often thrilling life, her humility (her sons "are true miracles, considering the gene pool") never fails her.

A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2023

ISBN: 9780063226562

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023