Crackling with energy, Burkett's report is a good dose of high school for those who have been away for a while—turbulent,...

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ANOTHER PLANET

A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF A SUBURBAN HIGH SCHOOL

The strange world of the American suburban high school, an incubator in which it is a marvel that any graduates hatch, snappily chronicled by Miami Herald journalist Burkett (The Right Women, 1998, etc.).

Burkett spent the 1999–2000 school year at the Prior Lake High School in Minnesota. She wanted to move beyond the Columbine half-truths regurgitated by pundits, and get a real sense of what goes on inside suburban schools. Is there dignity in the experience? Does it offer hope to its students? Burkett appreciates that she won't be able to experience school like a student would, but she gets right in with the “Jocks and Wiggers, Preps, Punks, Burnouts, Rednecks, Sluts and Goths,” and does her best. What she finds is that high schools are the same as they’ve been for the last 30 years: a welter of angst, hormones, confused purpose, social divides, scapegoating, and often contradictory and hypocritical messages sent by teachers and parents. It’s an environment that confines and restricts—essentially canceling the Bill of Rights until graduation—while urging independent thinking; that infantilizes while demanding maturity; that regiments and practices indiscriminate zero tolerance. Nor is it late-breaking news that students continue to raise flakiness to a high art; that they are wracked by ennui and are “unwilling to be reasoned with or shamed into obedience.” But Burkett brings the gavel down square on the heads of administration and parents for their haywire priorities, and for demanding that students strive for excellence, avoid caving to social pressures, and express themselves, while throwing up as many obstacles to these already difficult goals as possible.

Crackling with energy, Burkett's report is a good dose of high school for those who have been away for a while—turbulent, unstable, and unpredictable, with a company of survivors cast as graduates.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-621148-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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UNTAMED

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 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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