An above-average memoir that itself serves as the musician’s next career chapter.

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MY OWN DEVICES

TRUE STORIES FROM THE ROAD ON MUSIC, SCIENCE, AND SENSELESS LOVE

A rapper shows that her facility with language and revelation extends beyond music.

Though the memoir proceeds pretty much chronologically, it is more like a series of pieces, each with its own focus, than a cohesive narrative. A Minneapolis transplant to New York, raised by a Puerto Rican mother and a Caucasian father, with a degree in philosophy and a background in medical writing, Dessa (Spiral Bound, 2009, etc.) has consistently transcended conventional stereotyping, and her writing should command interest even from readers who know nothing of her work with the Doomtree collective and her solo releases. By her own admission, she came to music late—“in my midtwenties I was old enough to be a retired rapper—inexperienced and without good odds on making it a sustainable career. She succeeded through what she calls “the Tinker Bell model. She’s only real because she is clapped into existence….The Tinker Bell model is the nuclear option. It taps every reserve. It permits no Plan Bs.” Beyond artistic drive, the obsessive undercurrent of this memoir is her on-again, off-again romance with a crewmate (and soul mate?) identified only as X; the relationship was incredibly passionate but so combustible it couldn’t sustain itself. Dessa’s mother and father were equally driven in unorthodox directions, as the former started raising cattle and the latter devoted years to building his own one-man airplane. Some of the narrative is a standard tour diary, what it’s like to be on the road, where, she quotes a Doomtree rapper, you’re “a traveling T-shirt salesman.” She writes of an assignment from the New York Times Magazine in which she was to visit New Orleans like a tourist (so different from visiting as a touring musician), and she writes of her sidelights delivering lectures and performance pieces and of her invitation to contribute to “The Hamilton Mixtape.” It has been a singular career, and it is by no means over.

An above-average memoir that itself serves as the musician’s next career chapter.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4229-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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