A visceral account of personal illness and social ills.

YEAR OF PLAGUES

A MEMOIR OF 2020

A chronicle of a year of trauma.

In the fall of 2019, British Guyanese poet, novelist, and playwright D’Aguiar, a professor of English at UCLA, was diagnosed with prostate cancer, the first of three plagues that he recounts in a memoir notable for its uncommon candor. If cancer was the most immediate threat to his life, Covid-19 proved no less fearsome. To undergo tests in a hospital, he had to enter “spaces dominated by the pandemic.” The virus, he writes, assumed “the role of an aid to my cancer.” Equally assaulting was the “society-cancer” of anti-Black racism, as evidenced by the police killings of George Floyd and others. D’Aguiar reports in detail the trajectory of his illness from the time he first noticed bladder problems through the tests that confirmed the existence of cancer. He also writes about the four drugs—and their insidious side effects—that he took to control it and the eventual surgery to remove his prostate and the lymph nodes to which the disease had spread. Cancer affected both body and spirit: Because one of the drugs blocked the production of testosterone, for example, he began to experience hot flashes and to develop breasts, a disturbing side effect that challenged his “male gender outlook.” Trying to marshal “restorative powers” of mind, the author took to chanting, singing, and dancing to create an atmosphere conducive to cure, hoping to stop the disease from metastasizing “with a firewall of meds and positive vibes.” Writing poetry, he realized, had the power to rescue him “from catatonic shock and stasis” by opening up “a psychic space of awareness” of the world around him. Interwoven with his illness narrative, D’Aguiar shares some of his poems along with recollections of his childhood in Guyana, tales of the trickster god Anansi, and reflections on inequality in the health care system and the plight of Black men in America.

A visceral account of personal illness and social ills.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-309-153-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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

I'M GLAD MY MOM DIED

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

TANQUERAY

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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