A wrenching, powerful account of the long-term effects of the immigrant experience.

TASTES LIKE WAR

A MEMOIR

A Korean immigrant and sociology professor reevaluates her mother's past and their fraught relationship.

When she was very young, Cho moved with her family from Korea to her father's small, conservative hometown in rural Washington with her half brother, her Korean mother, and her much older father, a merchant mariner who was at sea for half of the year. “In 1986, when I was fifteen,” writes the author, [my mother] developed what psychiatrists call ‘florid psychosis.’ Florid. Such a beautiful image to describe the terror. A field of flowers from which my second mother bloomed.” By the time she died, suddenly and mysteriously, in 2008, she was spending all her time in a "granny flat" in New Jersey in the house of Cho's brother and his wife. Every weekend, Cho, who was working on a doctoral dissertation and then a book about the Korean diaspora, traveled several hours to cook for her mother, an activity that “let me imagine her before she was my mother.” In this probing, vividly written memoir, charged with the pain of losing "the person I loved most in the world,” Cho moves fluidly around in time, touching on difficult as well as happy memories—e.g., her mother's former zest for foraging and baking dozens of blackberry pies. Using the tools she developed as a sociologist, as well as her own insights as a daughter, the author was able to shape an evocative portrait of her mother's past as “an adolescent in postwar South Korea under…the rising US military hegemony, who worked at a US naval base, selling drinks, and probably sex, to American military personnel.” Though Cho refuses to settle on a specific explanation for her mother's illness, which creates some sense of an unresolved narrative, the author’s re-creation of her family dynamic is haunting and filled with palpable emotion.

A wrenching, powerful account of the long-term effects of the immigrant experience.

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-952177-94-1

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Feminist Press

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

HUMANS

The creator of the hit internet series Humans of New York takes it global, chasing down a panoply of interesting stories.

In 1955, Edward Steichen staged a show called “The Family of Man,” a gathering of photographs that emphasized the commonality of humankind. Stanton’s project seemingly has much the same ambition. “You’ve created this magic little corner of the Web where people feel safe sharing their stories—without being ridiculed, or bullied, or judged,” he writes. “These stories are only honestly shared because they have a long history of being warmly received.” The ask is the hard part: approaching a total stranger and asking him or her to tell their stories. And what stories they are. A young Frenchwoman, tearful, recounts being able to see things from the spirit world that no one else can see. “And it’s been a very lonely existence since then,” she says. A sensible teenager in St. Petersburg, Russia, relates that her friends are trying to be grown-up, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, whereas she wants to remain a child close to her parents: “I’d like these times to last as long as possible.” A few stories are obnoxious, as with a Dutch incel who has converted himself into a pickup artist and outright cad: “Of course it’s manipulation, but why should I care? I’ve been manipulated so many times in my life.” A great many stories, some going for several pages but most taking up just a paragraph or two, are regretful, speaking to dashed dreams and roads not taken. A surprising number recount mental illness, depression, and addiction; “I’d give anything to have a tribe,” says a beleaguered mother in Barcelona. Some are hopeful, though, such as that of an Iranian woman: “I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.”

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11429-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

A refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

WILL

One of Hollywood’s biggest stars delivers a memoir of success won through endless, relentless work and self-reckoning.

“My imagination is my gift, and when it merges with my work ethic, I can make money rain from the heavens.” So writes Smith, whose imagination is indeed a thing of wonder—a means of coping with fear, an abusive father with the heart of a drill instructor, and all manner of inner yearnings. The author’s imagination took him from a job bagging ice in Philadelphia to initial success as a partner in the Grammy-winning rap act DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Smith was propelled into stardom thanks to the ministrations of Quincy Jones, who arranged an audition in the middle of his own birthday party, bellowing “No paralysis through analysis!” when Smith begged for time to prepare. The mantra—which Jones intoned 50-odd times during the two hours it took for the Hollywood suits to draw up a contract for the hit comedy series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air—is telling, for hidden within this memoir lies a powerful self-help book. For Smith, all of life is a challenge in which one’s feelings are largely immaterial. “I watched my father’s negative emotions seize control of his ample intellect and cause him over and over again to destroy beautiful parts of our family,” he writes, good reason for him to sublimate negativity in the drive to get what he wanted—money, at first, and lots of it, which got him in trouble with the IRS in the early 1990s. Smith, having developed a self-image that cast him as a coward, opines that one’s best life is lived by facing up to the things that hold us back. “I’ve been making a conscious effort to attack all the things that I’m scared of,” he writes, adding, “And this is scary.” It’s a good lesson for any aspiring creative to ponder—though it helps to have Smith’s abundant talent, too.

A refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984877-92-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

more