A stirring meditation on survival and preserving one’s identity in the midst of cultural dislocation.


Mommy, What's that Number on Your Arm?


A Hungarian woman’s debut remembrance of her journey from Holocaust survivor to public witness.

Author Lyon’s early childhood was nearly idyllic; as one of six siblings in a Jewish family, she was raised in the rural Czechoslovakian town of Velky Berehi, a small, tightly knit community where Jews and gentiles lived in peaceful harmony. However, the 1938 Munich Agreement, signed when the author was 8 years old, ceded control of part of Czechoslovakia, including the author’s hometown, to Hungary—a grim turning point in the young girl’s life. Hungary was allied at the time with Nazi Germany, and anti-Semitism was common. The government assigned the author a new first name, Hajnal, and renamed her town, as well. After the Germans arrived as conquerors in 1944, they deprived her family of its livelihood and made all Jews wear identifying yellow stars. Lyon was eventually shipped to the Ghetto Beregszász before being sent to the infamous concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. She was imprisoned at seven different camps until she was rescued in 1945 by the Swedish Red Cross and sent to live with a loving host family in Sweden for two years. Then she reunited with some of her family members in the United States, where she met her husband, Karl Lyon, with whom she later had children. What little remained of her Hungarian kin was now behind the Iron Curtain, and it took relentless petitioning of the Soviet Union before she was granted permission to visit them again. The author’s recollection is as emotionally wide-ranging as it is historically astute, and her account of forced alienation from her own culture and religion is engaging. The author became a prolific public lecturer on the catastrophe of the Holocaust, and her unflinching sense of moral purpose enlivens her entire memoir. Much of the story is heart-wrenching and thus difficult to read, but Lyon manages to leaven her work with wit and inspiration. There’s no shortage of first-person accounts of the Holocaust available today, but this one serves as an able reminder of the urgent necessity of returning to the past with eyes wide open.

A stirring meditation on survival and preserving one’s identity in the midst of cultural dislocation.

Pub Date: May 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5144-5505-0

Page Count: 414

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2017

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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.


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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