A useful document for scholars of the Beat generation.

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SPRING AND AUTUMN ANNALS

A Beat poet’s journal following the suicide of her closest friend encompasses many seasons and cycles of life and death.

For decades, di Prima (The Poetry Deal, 2014, etc.) has provided an important female perspective on a Beat generation whose best-known figures have been male. This volume, studded with beautiful moments but often scattershot, began as letters she wrote daily to dancer and Andy Warhol acolyte Freddie Herko, who leapt to his death from a window when he was 29, leaving many projects and plans unfulfilled. “I pray now that your third love came, in silver shoes, and veiled, that she glittered and danced for you, a boy-girl, a child with the secrets,” writes the author. “That you followed her out the window.” More likely, Herko’s death was caused by a combination of amphetamine-fueled desperation or insanity. “You cleaned yourself, you danced, you shed your flesh,” writes di Prima. “A leap that bought the new age and turned us loose.” With evocative detail and introspective insight, she writes of that loss and the feeling of being turned loose, occasionally unmoored, struggling to create art through years of living in barely habitable apartments. She also writes, often in a fractured manner, about how her marriage to the man who had been Herko’s partner was troubled from the start. She conceived a child with another man and ended that pregnancy with an abortion that continued to haunt her. She went to Timothy Leary’s wedding, copy edited Herbert Huncke, took LSD, wrote poems, and made plays. She saw the beatniks and their bongos give way to the hippies, “hairier than the old. They are wreathed in perpetual, goony, elaborate grins.” She fell deeply in love with other women, though most relationships seemed to be troubled, transitory, or both. “Peter took refuge downstairs, we spoke mythologies. We sniffed cocaine together, Peter buying. Peter set out for India. Returned in two months, tanned and older, moved in with me. We set out to get married, but we failed.”

A useful document for scholars of the Beat generation.

Pub Date: March 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-87286-787-1

Page Count: 210

Publisher: City Lights

Review Posted Online: Jan. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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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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