A moving, engaging investigation of culture and family.

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CONCEALED

MEMOIR OF A JEWISH-IRANIAN DAUGHTER CAUGHT BETWEEN THE CHADOR AND AMERICA

Amini’s debut memoir chronicles her parents’ lives in Iran, their journey to America, and her own coming-of-age.

As the American-born author grew up in New York City, she heard intriguing stories from her immigrant mother, Hana, who married her father when she was just 14 and he was 34. The couple had secretly lived as Jews in the city of Mashhad, where Hana wore the chador in order to pass as Muslim. Upon arriving in the United States, Hana swapped the chador for Oscar de la Renta gowns and her diffidence for unbridled candor, often at the expense of her husband’s pride. However, the author apparently didn’t inherit her mother’s verbosity or sartorial ostentatiousness; instead, Amini struggled to find her voice in a household that didn’t value the education or autonomy of women. This is a memoir of Amini’s extraordinary journey and of her unflappable love for her family, even when their actions threatened to hinder her dreams—particularly her pursuit of a college education. The author deftly unpacks the complexities of her devout and volatile father, who told her, “It is my responsibility as your father to protect you from Americans and not allow you to become one.” But although he was a formidable figure, he’s also shown to have exhibited moments of tenderness when Amini was sick as a child or when she married the love of her life. The author weaves a central theme of concealment and visibility throughout her book with a fine sense of nuance. In a prologue, she asks, “How could I be unseen when seen…could I disappear upon demand?” And toward the end of the memoir, she writes in her journal, “What does it mean to claim me…to make me mine?” She describes how, ultimately, her love of literature, art, and social work allowed her to answer the latter question and finally find her voice. Here, that voice wields a quiet power, examining her world with unflinching curiosity and care.

A moving, engaging investigation of culture and family.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-9906194-3-7

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Greenpoint Press

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Fans will find comfort in Lawson’s dependably winning mix of shameless irreverence, wicked humor, and vulnerability.

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BROKEN (IN THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY)

The Bloggess is back to survey the hazards and hilarity of imperfection.

Lawson is a wanderer. Whether on her award-winning blog or in the pages of her bestselling books, she reliably takes readers to places they weren’t even aware they wanted to go—e.g., shopping for dog condoms or witnessing what appears to be a satanic ritual. Longtime fans of the author’s prose know that the destinations really aren’t the point; it’s the laugh-out-loud, tears-streaming-down-your-face journeys that make her writing so irresistible. This book is another solid collection of humorous musings on everyday life, or at least the life of a self-described “super introvert” who has a fantastic imagination and dozens of chosen spirit animals. While Furiously Happy centered on the idea of making good mental health days exceptionally good, her latest celebrates the notion that being broken is beautiful—or at least nothing to be ashamed of. “I have managed to fuck shit up in shockingly impressive ways and still be considered a fairly acceptable person,” writes Lawson, who has made something of an art form out of awkward confessionals. For example, she chronicles a mix-up at the post office that left her with a “big ol’ sack filled with a dozen small squishy penises [with] smiley faces painted on them.” It’s not all laughs, though, as the author addresses her ongoing battle with both physical and mental illness, including a trial of transcranial magnetic stimulation, a relatively new therapy for people who suffer from treatment-resistant depression. The author’s colloquial narrative style may not suit the linear-narrative crowd, but this isn’t for them. “What we really want,” she writes, “is to know we’re not alone in our terribleness….Human foibles are what make us us, and the art of mortification is what brings us all together.” The material is fresh, but the scaffolding is the same.

Fans will find comfort in Lawson’s dependably winning mix of shameless irreverence, wicked humor, and vulnerability.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-07703-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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