Provocative, illuminating, and consistently entertaining.



The unexpected and underappreciated history of sex toys.

Years before sex expert Lieberman earned her doctorate in “Sex Toy History,” she invested in her first vibrator, and it became “love at first buzz.” She went on to participate in adult novelty parties while living in Texas, where the sale or promotion of sexual stimulators was considered legally obscene (things have changed since). The historically regressive nature of the availability and use of sex toys forms the thrust of the book, and the author’s vast knowledge of sex, eroticism, and the art of self-pleasure is on vibrant display. Lieberman describes ancient “phallic batons” in use as far back as 40,000 B.C.E. Though the information is readily available, she notes, there remains no definitive answers on the true origins and usages of sex toys, primarily because their history is shrouded in “male fear,” patriarchal regulation of women’s bodies, and shame. While Japanese societies celebrate the sex toy, the author encountered difficulty in tracing the tabooed subject matter within American culture until, tucked away in the archives of museums, libraries, and vintage catalogs, she discovered dilators, ticklers, and vibrators and their assorted histories as sexual apparatuses disguised as medical devices. Lieberman introduces us to a colorful cast of creators and purveyors who have played a role in destigmatizing masturbation and revolutionizing the sex industry. Among others, these include an enterprising paraplegic who embarked on a handcrafted dildo manufacturing business, which helped usher innovative variations on sex toys into the mainstream consumer market. Lieberman also profiles the two creative entrepreneurs behind the Pleasure Chest adult novelty chain and American artists and sex educators Betty Dodson and Joani Blank, and she updates readers on more contemporary advancements within the sex toy arena. On a deeper level, through its probing exploration, the text also becomes a sharp commentary on contemporary society’s ever changing sexual landscape and how sex is perceived, judged, accepted, and enjoyed with more variations than ever before.

Provocative, illuminating, and consistently entertaining.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68177-543-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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