A Woody Allen–esque tale of an uneasy conscience in Christian America.

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CANDIDATE WITHOUT A PRAYER

AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A JEWISH ATHEIST IN THE BIBLE BELT

A mild, witty memoir by an activist atheist and founder of the Secular Coalition for America.

Retired professor of mathematics at the College of Charleston, in South Carolina, a native Philadelphian and a nonpracticing Jew, Silverman delights in contradictions and provocation, such as debating the existence of God with fundamentalists in the Deep South. The author has advocated for years to help empower the non-theistic constituency, most of whom believe morality should be dictated by tried-and-true “human judgments” rather than biblical judgments—which, while fashioning the Golden Rule, he notes, have also been used to condone slavery, anti-Semitism, misogyny and horrendous violence. The only child of “cultural Jews,” Silverman chronicles the not-so-small hypocrisies that he witnessed in adults around him, such as their conviction that the execution of the Rosenbergs in 1953 was “good for Jews” and that the games their beloved Philadelphia Phillies played against the Brooklyn Dodgers weren’t worthy of their attendance because “of undesirable people (blacks) who came to watch [Jackie] Robinson play.” Once he mastered biblical readings as part of his bar mitzvah training, Silverman debated two thoughts with his young self: “either the God of the Bible didn’t exist, or he could be as bad as and more powerful than Adolph Hitler.” God and sex were forbidden topics in his childhood home, and his early years learning about girls and how to care for himself make for charming reading. Enmeshed in his teaching career, he became radicalized during the incendiary ’60s and ’70s and later ran for numerous offices, such as governor of South Carolina in 1990 (he lost). The book skips around erratically, somewhat thematically, and dwells at length on his atheist beliefs.

A Woody Allen–esque tale of an uneasy conscience in Christian America. 

Pub Date: June 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-9844932-8-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Pitchstone Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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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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