Seaman’s frequent thesaurus-leaning renders her portraits overpainted, but despite its awkward turns, this is a decidedly...

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REDISCOVERING SEVEN AMERICAN WOMEN ARTISTS

Vital portraits of forgotten women artists that aim to celebrate their lives and work and to establish their permanent standing within the canon of contemporary art.

With impressive research, Booklist editor Seaman (Writers on the Air: Conversations About Books, 2005, etc.) curates a fine retrospective on the history of women in the male-dominated world of 20th-century art. Inspired by the carelessness with which scholars would identify group photographs of artists—famous men named, women overlooked—the author chronicles her subjects’ lives in lengthy essays that fall gently between biography and scholarly criticism. Louise Nevelson, Gertrude Abercrombie, Loïs Mailou Jones, Ree Morton, Joan Brown, Christina Ramberg, and Lenore Tawney each led rich lives of passionate pursuit, all while managing the uneven expectations hoisted upon midcentury wives and mothers. This fine selection of artists lends the book both cultural and technical diversity. Jones, an accomplished black painter often associated with the Harlem Renaissance, studied under Rodin in Paris and embraced her African heritage while facing racial prejudice at home. Tawney worked exclusively in fiber, weaving tapestries in New York City while friends Agnes Martin and Robert Rauschenberg worked nearby. Abercrombie, queen of the Chicago jazz scene and painter of mesmerizing works, appears in photographs alongside Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Rollins. Ramberg’s sensual graphics can be found not only in analyses of the Chicago Imagists, but also in the pages of Playboy in the 1970s. Seaman exuberantly portrays each highly accomplished woman as the inspirational force she was, and she does a service by bringing them back into contemporary discourse. Unfortunately, the author too often lets her excitement carry her away, running lists of adjectives and too many descriptions on top of one another. This results in clumsily executed passages—e.g., Brown’s “slapped, sloshed, slashed, layered, kinetic canvases” and Abercrombie’s “bewitching, enigmatic, elegant, awkward, eerie, funny, clever, sad, anguished, teasing and playful” paintings.

Seaman’s frequent thesaurus-leaning renders her portraits overpainted, but despite its awkward turns, this is a decidedly important and long-overdue showcase (two 16-page color inserts).

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62040-758-5

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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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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