AMIDST LATVIANS DURING THE HOLOCAUST

A Jewish teenager views World War II from a very precarious perch—Nazi-occupied Latvia—in this quietly harrowing memoir.

Anders, a prominent chemist, was 15-years-old when the German army rolled into his hometown of Liepaja, Latvia, in 1941. Faced with the Germans’ murderous anti-Semitic policies, his middle-class Jewish parents hit upon a desperate survival strategy—his mother, Erica, would claim to be a German foundling raised by a Jewish family. The ploy didn’t save his father, who was dragged from their apartment and shot in a mass execution, but it gave Erica the provisional status of an Aryan and her two sons that of half-Jews—a gray area in the Nazi racial taxonomy that sheltered them from the worst persecution. The scheme became a cat-and-mouse game with skeptical Nazi officials; the family gleaned one temporary reprieve after another as they amassed bogus documentation of German ancestry—the author used his knowledge of chemistry to alter identity papers—always aware that one false step could lead to a rejection of their claim and consignment to a death camp. It’s a nerve-wracking saga in which life and death depend on a capricious fate, and the author tells it with an absorbing lucidity. Writing with an almost scientific detachment, he sketches vivid portraits of the people around him—Erica, whose manipulative charm saved herself and her children, is especially vibrant—and shrewdly analyzes their actions under duress. He also presents an even-handed assessment of Latvia’s collective responsibility for war crimes under German occupation—he testified at the Nuremburg Trials in 1948—and concludes that, while some collaborated in atrocities, most Latvians deplored them and many gave crucial help to Jewish neighbors, including his family. Anders’ subdued, matter-of-fact account bears witness to terror and sorrow without histrionics, and to a simple moral vision—“I met enough decent, brave, and noble Germans and Latvians during the war to be immunized against prejudice”—that resonates. A testament of remarkable clarity and humanity, wrung from dark experience.

 

Pub Date: Dec. 27, 2010

ISBN: 978-9984993188

Page Count: 204

Publisher: Occupation Museum Association of Latvia

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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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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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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