A passionate, informative, albeit dispiriting, call for change with only a few rays of hope.

AMERICAN DREAMING

A MEMOIR OF INTERRACIAL LOVE, ESTRANGEMENT, AND RACE EQUALITY

A memoir brings readers deep inside the author’s experiences as a White woman married to a Black man in an America bitterly divided along racial lines.

There were serious fault lines in Hagan’s family before she began dating Ronald, the man she has loved for 45 years. Her own parents faced rejection because of their cross-cultural marriage. Her father, Frank, was born into a large Italian immigrant family living in Albany, New York. He married the author’s mother, Ruth, an Australian of Irish descent, in New South Wales during World War II. Frank’s family never accepted Ruth as one of its own. By the time Hagan, the fourth of five siblings, was born, Ruth was already drinking heavily, and the author was cared for by her 10-year-old sister, Peggy. Despite Hagan’s family’s growing dysfunction, her parents evidenced an easygoing acceptance of Black people. One of her father’s best friends was Harold Van Zandt, a Black man who once offered young newsboy Frank a cup of hot chocolate on a freezing day. And her parents stood up for a Black couple when the neighbors on their block in suburban Albany signed a petition barring the newcomers from buying a house. When the author met Ronald in her freshman year at Syracuse University, she relates that she had already “learned skin color is just an attribute like hair and eye color, and it never occurred to me to make such attributes weapons of oppression and inequality.” What she experienced in a hostile backlash from her family—and the world at large—through major and microaggressions directed against the couple taught her differently, and this lesson forms the primary theme of her memoir. In her timely work, which features family photographs, Hagan sorrowfully, angrily, and articulately intertwines her autobiography with Black history. Sometimes her rage spills out in unrestrained bursts, but the disturbing narrative’s great strength is in its descriptions of the frequent personal slights and off-the-cuff remarks from family members, friends, and strangers that create an exhausting unease and a permeating, underlying fear. Still, at its heart, this is a beautiful love story.

A passionate, informative, albeit dispiriting, call for change with only a few rays of hope.

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2021

ISBN: 979-8-68-780255-0

Page Count: 246

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2021

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The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

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I'M GLAD MY MOM DIED

The former iCarly star reflects on her difficult childhood.

In her debut memoir, titled after her 2020 one-woman show, singer and actor McCurdy (b. 1992) reveals the raw details of what she describes as years of emotional abuse at the hands of her demanding, emotionally unstable stage mom, Debra. Born in Los Angeles, the author, along with three older brothers, grew up in a home controlled by her mother. When McCurdy was 3, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though she initially survived, the disease’s recurrence would ultimately take her life when the author was 21. McCurdy candidly reconstructs those in-between years, showing how “my mom emotionally, mentally, and physically abused me in ways that will forever impact me.” Insistent on molding her only daughter into “Mommy’s little actress,” Debra shuffled her to auditions beginning at age 6. As she matured and starting booking acting gigs, McCurdy remained “desperate to impress Mom,” while Debra became increasingly obsessive about her daughter’s physical appearance. She tinted her daughter’s eyelashes, whitened her teeth, enforced a tightly monitored regimen of “calorie restriction,” and performed regular genital exams on her as a teenager. Eventually, the author grew understandably resentful and tried to distance herself from her mother. As a young celebrity, however, McCurdy became vulnerable to eating disorders, alcohol addiction, self-loathing, and unstable relationships. Throughout the book, she honestly portrays Debra’s cruel perfectionist personality and abusive behavior patterns, showing a woman who could get enraged by everything from crooked eyeliner to spilled milk. At the same time, McCurdy exhibits compassion for her deeply flawed mother. Late in the book, she shares a crushing secret her father revealed to her as an adult. While McCurdy didn’t emerge from her childhood unscathed, she’s managed to spin her harrowing experience into a sold-out stage act and achieve a form of catharsis that puts her mind, body, and acting career at peace.

The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982185-82-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

TANQUERAY

A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2022

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