A smart, occasionally wise, and always entertaining recollection of addiction, crime, punishment, and recovery.

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DOPE SACKS, DYE PACKS AND THE LONG WELCOME BACK

In this raucous debut memoir, an addict hits bottom in spectacular fashion by getting arrested for a string of bank robberies.

Piotter describes a Seattle boyhood tangled in familial and personal dysfunctions: an authoritarian yet deadbeat dad, swerving between frauds and gambling binges; a defeated, alcoholic mom; and junior high pot smoking and dealing that served as a gateway into serious cocaine and heroin addictions. His adulthood was even more chaotic as he weathered homelessness, jail stints, gangsters who beat and shot at him, epic benders with druggies and prostitutes, and a ceaseless, exhausting search for anything he could steal—including oscillating fans, driving gloves, and a box of raw oysters—to feed his $500-a-day habit. It was with palpable relief that in 1993, after a spell as a gentleman bandit knocking over local banks, he was sentenced to nine and a half years in a federal penitentiary. There, Piotter began an unlikely turnaround as he received treatment for his addictions, kept his nose relatively clean, and learned construction trades. He’s a keen observer of the prison’s often bizarre and occasionally noble characters and twisted moral economy; for example, in one sequence fraught with chilling irony, a sober friend flushes his dealer cellmate’s stash down the toilet to avoid a search by guards, which puts him in debt to the prison’s Colombian cartel, who in turn extract repayment by making him kill one of their Mexican rivals. Piotter’s narrative unfolds as a picaresque of brief, punchy, shaggy dog stories; even after his release, as he stays sober, starts a construction company, and woos his wary future wife, he’s still beset by lurid happenstances, including road-rage episodes, a public sea lion orgy, and the hanging suicide of his neighbor. His storytelling is briskly paced, evocative, and laced with piquant character sketches and wisecracks such as, “I’m allergic to alcohol; every time I drink I break out in handcuffs.” The author’s life, as portrayed here, contains enough screw-ups for 10 dysfunctionality memoirs, but unlike other memoirists, he eschews angst and self-pity and highlights the absurd humor of the predicaments he made for himself. The pathos here is all the more moving for being spare, understated, and well-earned from hard experience.

A smart, occasionally wise, and always entertaining recollection of addiction, crime, punishment, and recovery.

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9965800-0-7

Page Count: 346

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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