An impressive anthology by a scholar who knows how to separate the wheat from the chaff within the massive amount of primary...

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A WOMAN IN ARABIA

THE WRITINGS OF THE QUEEN OF THE DESERT

Gertrude Bell (1868-1926) shattered gender stereotypes while influencing British policy in the Middle East, particularly in the areas in and around present-day Iraq. Editor Howell (Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations, 2007) brings the "female Lawrence of Arabia" to life through judicious selections from Bell’s massive public writings and personal papers.

Howell has arranged the text of her anthology by subject, ranging from Bell's talents as a poet and a linguist to her skills as a nation builder and kingmaker. Moving away from the realms of the arts and of policy, Howell also provides insights into Bell's love life, mostly through her subject’s own words. The overall effect is a biography of sorts, but it’s told from a vastly different perspective than traditional biographies of Bell by Howell and by Janet Wallach (Desert Queen, 1996). The truism that the past is prologue comes alive through Bell's adventures, especially her observation that trying to create a cohesive nation from the shards that became Iraq made no sense. Bell considered herself a citizen diplomat rather than a politician. She was suspicious of politicians, wondering if they ever abandoned self-interest. In Howell's biography of Bell, and even more so in this anthology, Bell comes across as a compassionate, erudite quasi-diplomat worthy of great admiration. Unlike so many of the rigid diplomats and politicians making decisions in England on the basis of a colonial mindset, Bell spoke the languages of those she wanted to help, all the better to gain reliable intelligence and establish trust. In addition to an introduction, Howell also includes a helpful chronology of her subject’s life.

An impressive anthology by a scholar who knows how to separate the wheat from the chaff within the massive amount of primary source material Bell left behind at her death.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-14-310737-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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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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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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