A heartwarming story that explores the power of friendship as well as race, sexuality, talent, and identity.

OFFICER CLEMMONS

A MEMOIR

The extraordinary story of one of Mister Rogers’ most groundbreaking and endearing “neighbors,” Officer Clemmons.

Recently, the late Fred Rogers deservedly won posthumous attention thanks to the award-winning documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor and the Tom Hanks vehicle A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. A dear friend of Rogers for three decades, Clemmons offers a firsthand account of his work on Rogers’ show, a story intertwined with the author’s remarkable career as an operatic singer, actor, playwright, and choir director. The autobiography opens with a touching letter from Clemmons to Rogers, thanking him for all of his compassionate lessons. An abbreviated opening recounts the author’s troubled childhood followed by his hard-earned escape to Oberlin College. There, he blossomed both creatively and personally, embracing his homosexuality as well as a deep spirituality that transcended any singular faith. While singing at a church in Pittsburgh, Clemmons met Rogers, about to break nationally with his whimsical children’s show. Recognizing a kindred spirit, Clemmons guest-starred on the show frequently, soon becoming a regular “neighbor” and the first African American to be featured on a children’s program. Clemmons originated his character, the friendly policeman Officer Clemmons, partially as a way to reconcile his frequent conflicts with the police and other authority figures. The author chronicles the friction that resulted from Rogers’ employing an openly gay man on his show, which forced Clemmons to repress his true nature. Nevertheless, their friendship continued to deepen. After Rogers ended a show on a characteristically hopeful note—“You make every day a special day just by being you, and I like you just the way you are”—a spellbound Clemmons asked if he was speaking to him. “Yes, I was,” Rogers replied. “I have been talking to you for years. You finally heard me today.”

A heartwarming story that explores the power of friendship as well as race, sexuality, talent, and identity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-94822-670-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Catapult

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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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 Books

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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