A remarkable portrait of a woman who is proof that the disabled can live lives filled with purpose and pleasure.

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TOO LATE TO DIE YOUNG

NEARLY TRUE TALES FROM A LIFE

Selected episodes from the life of “a tiny wheelchair woman with a certain amount of mouth,” as disability rights activist Johnson describes herself.

Johnson not only practices law in Charleston, S.C., specializing in disability issues, but she’s a force in the Democratic Party in Charleston and leads an annual protest against the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon, which, she argues, stereotypes people with disabilities as hopeless cases. The present memoir grew out of an article (“Unspeakable Conversations”) that ran in the New York Times Magazine in 2002 and is reprinted here. In it, Johnson describes her encounter with Princeton bioethicist Peter Singer, whose position that euthanasia should be legalized in the case of severely disabled newborns has aroused the ire of proponents of disability rights, among others. Johnson holds her own against Singer, as she does against the forceful photographer sent by the Times to take pictures of her for the article. Other chapters briskly and wittily recount her low-budget campaign for a seat representing Charleston on the county council in 1994 (she lost), her misadventures with the Secret Service as a delegate to the 1996 Democratic convention, her courtroom appearance as co-counsel for the plaintiff in a case under the Americans with Disabilities Act (she won), a visit to Cuba for a disability rights conference, which she covered for New Mobility magazine and a disastrous trip in 2001 to a disability convention in Tucson, where a fall from her wheelchair sent her to the emergency room and required an air-ambulance trip back home. The word “frail” scarcely describes Johnson’s physique, for she weighs only 70 pounds, has a spine so twisted by muscular dystrophy that it can’t support her and relies on others for the most basic aspects of daily care. But blunt, stubborn, proud, resourceful and smart are words that do describe her indeed.

A remarkable portrait of a woman who is proof that the disabled can live lives filled with purpose and pleasure.

Pub Date: April 8, 2005

ISBN: 0-8050-7594-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2005

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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 Books

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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