A rich trove for literary archaeologists in search of artifacts from the Beat epoch.

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RECOLLECTIONS OF MY LIFE AS A WOMAN

THE NEW YORK YEARS

An informative, comprehensive account of one woman’s rise in the literary underground, ripe with the flavors and transformations of the Beat Generation.

San Francisco poet di Prima (Loba, not reviewed) is considered the most prominent woman among the “beatniks” (Corso, Kerouac, Ginsberg et al.) of the 1950s. Her unconventional career, however, was hardly forecast by a 1930s girlhood filled with violence and foreboding, in which the bright child was alternately confused and tormented by her strict Italian family and the cruel Brooklyn streets. After an unsatisfying year at Swarthmore, she dropped out and began to move with a small circle of estranged nonconformists in rundown Manhattan locales, where they experimented with sex, drugs, and art. The author brings a relentless acuity to her depiction of sensual, chaotic times, and she is astute in her portrayal of the awkward place women occupied in this bohemian hierarchy. She produces a sharp sense of the creative collisions of the day—involving figures as diverse as Allen Ginsberg, Kenneth Rexroth, Le Roi Jones, Charlie Parker, Merce Cunningham, Martin Landau, and Audre Lorde—and of the Beats’ sense of embattlement against a repressive city and police. While not exactly stream-of-consciousness, strongly evocative passages alternate throughout with ones that might have been trimmed. Many of the recollections of di Prima’s early years are warm and affectionate, as are her reminiscences of her first lover (a gentle, literate longshoreman twice her age). The author also details her circle’s founding of important small presses, theater companies, and other cultural outlets.

A rich trove for literary archaeologists in search of artifacts from the Beat epoch.

Pub Date: April 23, 2001

ISBN: 0-670-85166-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2001

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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