An affecting recollection of a life rich in literature and love.

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STRANGE PARADISE

PORTRAIT OF A MARRIAGE

A poet reflects on her long marriage and struggle to define her own career.

In a graceful, engaging memoir, Schulman (English/Baruch Coll., CUNY; Without a Claim, 2013, etc.)—former poetry editor of the Nation, director of the Poetry Center at the 92nd Street Y, and winner of the Frost Medal for Distinguished Lifetime Achievement in American Poetry—writes candidly about her marriage to virologist Jerome Schulman, her literary aspirations, and her grief following her husband’s recent death. She takes her title from lines by Marianne Moore, describing marriage as “that strange paradise / unlike flesh, gold, or stately buildings / the choicest part of my life.” Schulman met Moore when she was 14, the beginning of a warm friendship. She edited an authorized edition of Moore’s poems and focused on her work in her doctoral dissertation. Many other poets, writers, and artists make appearances as Schulman recounts the trajectory of her career. These include novelist Richard Yates; poets W.S. Merwin, Joseph Brodsky, and Derek Walcott; critic Irving Howe; and many of the acclaimed writers—e.g., James Baldwin, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Lowell, and Octavio Paz—Schulman invited to the 92nd Street Y. Much of the memoir focuses less on her marriage than her achievements in the literary world. Schulman married reluctantly, fearful of giving up her independence, but her husband never failed in encouraging her to write and submit her work for publication; she chafed, though, at being dependent on his income as she embarked on her career, and her resentment “seeped into our marriage like smoke.” With their discovery of Jerome’s infertility and their inability to talk frankly about adoption, the marriage foundered, leading to a 10-year separation. “My marriage,” she admits, “has been a feast of contradiction: radiance and dissatisfaction; intense loyalties and devastating treacheries; freedom and the sacrifice, albeit willing, of independence; excitement and a kind of pleasant boredom.” They reunited only to then face Jerome’s illness and a heart attack, followed by years of suffering and deterioration.

An affecting recollection of a life rich in literature and love.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-885983-52-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Turtle Point

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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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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UNTAMED

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 engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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