Laced with love, family dramas, recipes, and the pangs of growing up, Lerman’s memoir is a satisfying treat.

MY FAT DAD

A MEMOIR OF FOOD, LOVE, AND FAMILY, WITH RECIPES

Nutrition expert and New York Times Well Blog contributor Lerman pens an intimate memoir about the intersections of intense family relationships and food, dieting, and healthy eating.

As a child, the author’s relationships with her overweight father and distant mother were difficult. Eventually, she realized that her father’s ravenous appetite—he often consumed 8,000 calories per day—was a disease he couldn’t control. Lerman’s mother, a frustrated actress, had no desire to be saddled with housewifely tasks. The author’s grandmother Beauty, however, showered her with love and attention and lots of home-cooked meals. “In her arms,” writes Lerman, “I was never hungry for food, love, or affection. She was my mentor and my savior—saving my life, spoonful by spoonful.” The author tracks her emotional and culinary life as the family moved from Chicago to New York as well as the transition in her relationship with her father when her younger sister’s burgeoning acting career took off. Lerman also chronicles her parents’ divorce, her teenage years, and her father’s bout with cancer. Always entranced by health-food stores, the author began developing a healthy eating regime for her father, who, always trying one extreme diet after another, was fighting for his health. He eliminated dairy, meat, alcohol, and caffeine, and he began making “anti-cancer soup with shiitake, portabella and maitake mushrooms.” He also stocked up on fresh vegetables, blue-green algae, and fermented foods. Throughout the book, Lerman links food to physical and emotional well-being—e.g., a meal of white fish and steamed leeks topped with lemon slices was “calming and almost euphoric.” During an encounter with a guest who offered Lerman a piece of macrobiotic apple pie while espousing a vegetarian lifestyle, the author’s mind opened up to new ways of living and eating, and she relates them smoothly to readers.

Laced with love, family dramas, recipes, and the pangs of growing up, Lerman’s memoir is a satisfying treat.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-425-27223-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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A slim, somber classic.

BLUE NIGHTS

Didion (We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live: Collected Nonfiction, 2006, etc.) delivers a second masterpiece on grief, considering both her daughter’s death and her inevitable own.

In her 2005 book, The Year of Magical Thinking, the much-decorated journalist laid bare her emotions following the death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne. The same year that book was published, she also lost her adopted daughter, Quintana Roo, after a long hospitalization. Like Magical Thinking, this book is constructed out of close studies of particular memories and bits of medical lingo. Didion tests Quintana’s childhood poems and scribblings for hints of her own failings as a mother, and she voices her helplessness at the hands of doctors. “I put the word ‘diagnosis’ in quotes because I have not yet seen that case in which a ‘diagnosis’ led to a ‘cure,’ ” she writes. The author also ponders her own mortality, and she does so with heartbreaking specificity. A metal folding chair, as she describes it, is practically weaponized, ready to do her harm should she fall out of it; a fainting spell leaves her bleeding and helpless on the floor of her bedroom. Didion’s clipped, recursive sentences initially make the book feel arid and emotionally distant. But she’s profoundly aware of tone and style—a digression about novel-writing reveals her deep concern for the music sentences make—and the chapters become increasingly freighted with sorrow without displaying sentimentality. The book feels like an epitaph for both her daughter and herself, as she considers how much aging has demolished her preconceptions about growing old.

  A slim, somber classic.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-26767-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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