A remarkably insightful, profoundly moving story of fraternal interdependence and unconditional love.

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VINCENT AND THEO

THE VAN GOGH BROTHERS

As she did in Charles and Emma (2009), her biography of the Darwins, Heiligman renders a nuanced portrait of the complex, devoted, and enduring relationship between the Van Gogh brothers.

Though Vincent and Theo unmistakably looked like brothers, they could not have been more opposite in habits and temperament; still, they pledged to each other as teenagers “to keep the bond between them strong and intimate.” Heiligman explains: “They will be more than brothers, more than friends. They will be companions in the search for meaning in life and meaning in art….And they will, when needed, carry each other’s parcels.” She reveals their unfailing devotion to this pledge by drawing on the hundreds of letters they exchanged in their tragically short lifetimes, quoting extensively and adeptly integrating them into the narrative. She frames the story of their relationship as a series of gallery exhibits (introducing each with a black-and-white reproduction of a representative piece) and varies her writing style to reflect Vincent’s work in different media such as sketching, drawing, and painting. Some depictions are vivid and richly textured, like Vincent’s oil paintings, while others are lean and sharp, like his sketches and drawings. Her exegesis of a lesser-known painting, The Laakmolen near The Hague (The Windmill), which she sees as essential to understanding the brothers’ relationship, features typically painstaking description and analysis. It and several others are reproduced in a full-color insert (not seen for review).

A remarkably insightful, profoundly moving story of fraternal interdependence and unconditional love. (timeline, author’s note, biography, source notes, index) (Biography. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9339-1

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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Virtually every teenager struggles with difference and identity; at its best, this book will help its readers understand and...

FAR FROM THE TREE

YOUNG ADULT EDITION—HOW CHILDREN AND THEIR PARENTS LEARN TO ACCEPT ONE ANOTHER...OUR DIFFERENCES UNITE US

How do parents react when a child is far different from themselves—and how do those children cope with difference?

This young-readers’ edition of the original 2012 tome is far shorter but follows an identical format. In the first and last chapters, the author speaks of his own life journey as a gay Jew; in between he tells of families encountering the following differences: deaf, dwarfs, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, disability, prodigies, rape, crime, and transgender. He speaks with sensitivity about children who find community—or not—with others like themselves. He discusses such deeply philosophical and ethical questions as whether cochlear implants at birth are leading to the genocide of the Deaf community and whether parents of “pillow angels”—severely disabled children—should agree to medically stunt their children’s growth so the children can always be moved by loving arms instead of cranelike equipment. He argues that many children born “far from the tree” eventually find acceptance and even celebration among their families—but also despairs for those who deal with schizophrenia and those conceived by rape. Readers are not spared distressing details: a severely autistic child smears himself with excrement, then flings it at his parents; a family pet is killed gruesomely as a warning to a lesbian couple and their transgender child; there’s a substantial list of parents convicted of killing their children—and who are given light or even nonexistent jail sentences. Less mature teens—or those with low self-esteem—may well profit from confining their reading to the eloquent, encouraging first and last chapters.

Virtually every teenager struggles with difference and identity; at its best, this book will help its readers understand and embrace intersectionality. (notes, further reading) (Nonfiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-4090-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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Teens and adults who favor memoirs will be fascinated and deeply moved, when they get past the daunting page count

A LIST OF THINGS THAT DIDN'T KILL ME

A man whose emotionally unstable father moved him from home to home throughout the 1970s and ’80s before dying of AIDS tells his story.

Schmidt was only 3 when his father was arrested on drug charges. In lucid, careful detail, he recalls being packed off to his grandparents’. He explains the drastic difference between their home and his return to life with his dad, exemplified by his father's reframing of the Christ story taught to young Schmidt by his conservative stepgrandmother: “That’s a government lie. The truth is, Jesus was part alien.” It’s comical in this case, but the chasm that yawns between his dad’s anti-mainstream ideals, which his son often finds sympathetic, and his neglect and unpredictable temper is a theme throughout. Matter-of-fact descriptions of horrific events—his father, while stoned, recalling how he once threw Jason’s mother down a flight of stairs and later tried to kill himself, for example—allow the story to stand for itself, unmarred by melodrama. At bottom, this is an intensely personal narrative that meditates both on the writer’s individual experience of abuse and the social issues at play in being the son of a gay father who becomes ill with HIV in its early days.

Teens and adults who favor memoirs will be fascinated and deeply moved, when they get past the daunting page count . (Memoir. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-374-38013-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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