A combative addition to the literature of the war on poverty.

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ROLLING PENNIES IN THE DARK

A MEMOIR WITH A MESSAGE

Political writer and former White House and Pentagon official MacKinnon (Vengeance is Mine, 2010) recounts his poor childhood with alcoholic parents in a forceful commentary about poverty.

At age six, the author saved his parents from a candle fire (the electricity was, typically, cut off) by tossing a toy bucket of water over the burning mattress on which they lay in an alcohol-induced coma. At eight, he and his siblings were abandoned in a car to succumb to hypothermia while his parents waited out the snowstorm in a bar. By nine, he ducked a shooting rampage by his mother; by 13, he had been stabbed in a gang fight; by 17, his family had been evicted more than 30 times. MacKinnon addresses his pain in a raw voice, with little forgiveness for his criminally neglectful parents. The author eventually fought his way out of poverty and into college, crediting intervening relatives, supportive teachers, love of reading and writing, faith and determination to save his siblings and himself. MacKinnon takes great pride in the fact that he never fell into a life of crime because of his roots and has no sympathy for those who have, a view that dominates later chapters. As a writer for the Reagan White House and director of communications for Bob Dole, MacKinnon hit his stride and honed his stance on poverty. For him, poverty is a moral issue that can only be solved by a collective commitment by legislators to truly understand the experience. The “message” portion of the book would be stronger if he offered a more specific plan for making this happen, and the vitriol he engages in while condemning enemies of the poor (the liberal media and teachers unions) is off-putting. The emotionally and politically charged writing is repetitive and lacks the sophistication and poetry of similar childhood horror stories by Mary Karr and Jeannette Walls. MacKinnon’s powerful example is consistently fueled by his desire to help others and by his laudable perspective that individuals must make use of their gifts despite the odds.

A combative addition to the literature of the war on poverty.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-0788-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Howard Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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