A frank, well-intentioned but uneven account of volunteering in Peru.

BETWEEN INCA WALLS

A PEACE CORPS MEMOIR

A former Peace Corps worker recalls her time spent in 1960s Peru in this debut memoir.

Raised by devout Roman Catholic parents, LaTorre spent her early years in the cowboy town of Ismay, Montana, before relocating in her teens to California, where her social development “crept along at a slow creek’s pace.” Life changed in her 20s when the experience of living in Latin American cultures “awakened my body and soothed my restless soul.” In 1963, she joined a group of 20-something female students who spent their summer vacation “performing good works” among Mexico’s disadvantaged communities. Her time spent in Apaseo, where, among other tasks, she helped set up a library, spurred her to join the Peace Corps the following year. The memoir recounts her training in New York and Puerto Rico before being assigned to Peru with the intention of engaging in community development work. On her 22nd birthday, the author found herself journeying through the Andes Mountains on her way to the town of Abancay, where she helped provide health care and also fell in love with Antonio, a local college student who tested her Catholic beliefs regarding intimacy. LaTorre presents a forthright and candid voice. She openly discusses how she found Latin men “enticing” and a “constant distraction.” Yet despite this attraction, she was protective of her independence, influenced by the strong women she grew up around in Montana. But her commentary on gender roles in other societies is sometimes surprising. She writes: “Domestic issues might interest most of the town’s females, but food preparation, childcare, and who was dating whom didn’t always interest us. We couldn’t understand local females’ submissiveness to their men.” There is little consideration of the obstacles to women’s liberation outside of America. Descriptions of Indigenous people also rely on stereotypes of otherness: “Small, dark, leather-skinned Indians.” LaTorre’s story is one of a determined young woman keen to achieve her goals; her relationship with Antonio will have readers guessing how the romance will turn out. Illustrated with the author’s photographs, this bold memoir offers many rich details about Peru and the Peace Corps. But readers may find some of the author’s descriptions of the country’s Native societies lack nuance.

A frank, well-intentioned but uneven account of volunteering in Peru.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63152-717-3

Page Count: 328

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2020

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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