A brisk chronicle of a strong-willed, tireless, and determined leader.



A celebratory biography of Africa’s first female president and 2011 Nobel Prize winner.

The Pulitzer Prize–winning Pentagon correspondent for the New York Times, Cooper (The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood, 2008, etc.) traces the improbable career of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (b. 1938), a woman of spectacular political achievement. Drawing heavily on Sirleaf’s autobiography and interviews with her and her supporters, Cooper creates an admiring portrait that would have benefited from some distance, wider research, and more probing examination. Sirleaf perpetuated the legend that she was destined for greatness from birth, and after graduating from high school, she looked for ways to fulfill that prophecy. When reversed family fortunes precluded her going to Europe or America “to acquire finishing,” at 17, she married a Western-educated 24-year-old who seemed “suave and sophisticated.” After the births of four sons within the next few years, she felt frustrated about her future in sexist, desperately impoverished Liberia. When her husband went to Wisconsin for graduate study, she decided to go, too, to earn a business degree. Within a decade, she had left her abusive spouse, taken a position at Liberia’s Ministry of Finance and then an assignment as a loan officer at the World Bank, where “she began to build her international contacts with the Western leaders who controlled the purse strings for developing countries.” She proved herself adept at networking in financial circles, becoming a vice president at Citibank before moving to Equator Bank. With an invaluable financial career behind her, she entered politics. Cooper details the horrifying atrocities (dismemberments, rapes, mass executions) perpetrated by ruthless tyrants, the last of whom, Charles Taylor, Sirleaf initially backed. The author also reveals the support of these regimes by a succession of American administrations. Sirleaf won the presidency in 2005, inciting a violent backlash against women, including ritualistic killings. She was re-elected in 2011 despite charges of nepotism and corruption, which Cooper allows Sirleaf to defend.

A brisk chronicle of a strong-willed, tireless, and determined leader.

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4516-9735-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.



In her first nonfiction book, novelist Grande (Dancing with Butterflies, 2009, etc.) delves into her family’s cycle of separation and reunification.

Raised in poverty so severe that spaghetti reminded her of the tapeworms endemic to children in her Mexican hometown, the author is her family’s only college graduate and writer, whose honors include an American Book Award and International Latino Book Award. Though she was too young to remember her father when he entered the United States illegally seeking money to improve life for his family, she idolized him from afar. However, she also blamed him for taking away her mother after he sent for her when the author was not yet 5 years old. Though she emulated her sister, she ultimately answered to herself, and both siblings constantly sought affirmation of their parents’ love, whether they were present or not. When one caused disappointment, the siblings focused their hopes on the other. These contradictions prove to be the narrator’s hallmarks, as she consistently displays a fierce willingness to ask tough questions, accept startling answers, and candidly render emotional and physical violence. Even as a girl, Grande understood the redemptive power of language to define—in the U.S., her name’s literal translation, “big queen,” led to ridicule from other children—and to complicate. In spelling class, when a teacher used the sentence “my mamá loves me” (mi mamá me ama), Grande decided to “rearrange the words so that they formed a question: ¿Me ama mi mamá? Does my mama love me?”

A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6177-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

Did you like this book?

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet