An engaging and novel approach to spiritual universalism.



A memoir/spiritual work examines common religious questions from a combined Eastern and Western perspective.

Born to a Muslim family that lived in both Guyana and Canada, Ramsaran represents a mélange of cultures. As a teenager, he found a book about yoga and has since spent a lifetime exploring Eastern spirituality, which included a pilgrimage to India and eventually a discipleship in Paramahansa Yogananda’s Los Angeles–based Self-Realization Fellowship. This book is both a memoir of the author’s own spiritual journey and a rumination on religious questions, such as the purpose of life and what happens after death, asked by humans throughout time. Given his background, many of Ramsaran’s beliefs center on Eastern spirituality, in particular from Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi (1946). But like his guru, Ramsaran has a dual affinity, to Eastern spiritualism and the teachings of Jesus. He does not see a tension between the religions of East and West. Thus, chakras, karma, and reincarnation are not treated as an Eastern alternative to Christianity but instead as part of the Bible’s message. Similarly, Christian ideas like the Seven Deadly Sins are reinterpreted through an Eastern lens as “the seven inner serpents.” The repetitive reciting of the Hail Mary, a Roman Catholic prayer, serves the same purpose, according to the author, as the chants of Tibetan Buddhists. Ultimately, regardless of whether one worships Rama, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, or Sathya Sai Baba, these different faiths point to the same “Divine.” Curiously absent from this list is Allah. Indeed, despite the author’s Muslim upbringing and emphasis on spiritual universality, Islam plays only a small role in the work. While Ramsaran includes a section on the Christian Bible in nearly every chapter, the Quran is mentioned only twice in passing. Despite this surprising omission, the book is a welcome addition to the canon of East meets West spiritual dialogues that combine thoughtful meditations on spiritual questions with memoirs. This work also features poetry and an analysis of pop music.

An engaging and novel approach to spiritual universalism. (bibliography)

Pub Date: July 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5255-6868-8

Page Count: 234

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.


A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2022

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The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

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The former iCarly star reflects on her difficult childhood.

In her debut memoir, titled after her 2020 one-woman show, singer and actor McCurdy (b. 1992) reveals the raw details of what she describes as years of emotional abuse at the hands of her demanding, emotionally unstable stage mom, Debra. Born in Los Angeles, the author, along with three older brothers, grew up in a home controlled by her mother. When McCurdy was 3, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though she initially survived, the disease’s recurrence would ultimately take her life when the author was 21. McCurdy candidly reconstructs those in-between years, showing how “my mom emotionally, mentally, and physically abused me in ways that will forever impact me.” Insistent on molding her only daughter into “Mommy’s little actress,” Debra shuffled her to auditions beginning at age 6. As she matured and starting booking acting gigs, McCurdy remained “desperate to impress Mom,” while Debra became increasingly obsessive about her daughter’s physical appearance. She tinted her daughter’s eyelashes, whitened her teeth, enforced a tightly monitored regimen of “calorie restriction,” and performed regular genital exams on her as a teenager. Eventually, the author grew understandably resentful and tried to distance herself from her mother. As a young celebrity, however, McCurdy became vulnerable to eating disorders, alcohol addiction, self-loathing, and unstable relationships. Throughout the book, she honestly portrays Debra’s cruel perfectionist personality and abusive behavior patterns, showing a woman who could get enraged by everything from crooked eyeliner to spilled milk. At the same time, McCurdy exhibits compassion for her deeply flawed mother. Late in the book, she shares a crushing secret her father revealed to her as an adult. While McCurdy didn’t emerge from her childhood unscathed, she’s managed to spin her harrowing experience into a sold-out stage act and achieve a form of catharsis that puts her mind, body, and acting career at peace.

The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982185-82-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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