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

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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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Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

SO HELP ME GOD

The former vice president reflects warmly on the president whose followers were encouraged to hang him.

Pence’s calm during the Trump years has been a source of bemusement, especially during the administration’s calamitous demise. In this bulky, oddly uncurious political memoir, Pence suggests the source of his composure is simple: frequent prayer and bottomless patience for politicking. After a relatively speedy recap of his personal and political history in Indiana—born-again Christian, conservative radio host, congressman, governor—he remembers greeting the prospect of serving under Trump with enthusiasm. He “was giving voice to the desperation and frustration caused by decades of government mismanagement,” he writes. Recounting how the Trump-Pence ticket won the White House in 2016, he recalls Trump as a fundamentally hardworking president, albeit one who often shot from the hip. Yet Pence finds Trump’s impulsivity an asset, setting contentious foreign leaders and Democrats off-balance. Soon they settled into good cop–bad cop roles; he was “the gentler voice,” while “it was Trump’s job to bring the thunder.” Throughout, Pence rationalizes and forgives all sorts of thundering. Sniping at John McCain? McCain never really took the time to understand him! Revolving-door staffers? He’s running government like a business! That phone call with Ukraine’s president? Overblown! Downplaying the threat Covid-19 presented in early 2020? Evidence, somehow, of “the leadership that President Trump showed in the early, harrowing days of the pandemic.” But for a second-in-command to such a disruptive figure, Pence dwells little on Trump’s motivations, which makes the story’s climax—Trump’s 2020 election denials and the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection—impossible for him to reconcile. How could such a selfless patriot fall under the sway of bad lawyers and conspiracy theorists? God only knows. Chalk it up to Pence's forgiving nature. In the lengthy acknowledgments he thanks seemingly everybody he’s known personally or politically; but one name’s missing.

Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 9781982190330

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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