A top-notch biography of one of the greatest performers to emerge from a brilliant era.

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JANIS

HER LIFE AND MUSIC

A richly detailed, affectionate portrait of the legendary singer.

George-Warren (A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton, From Box Tops to Big Star to Backdoor Man, 2014, etc.) builds this illuminating biography of Janis Joplin (1943-1970) from interviews with surviving members of her family, band mates, and friends from all eras of her short life. Raised in Port Arthur, Texas, where her father was a refinery engineer, Joplin was a rebel who showed a talent for art. She was an outcast in high school, especially after she began patronizing the segregated venues where she could hear black artists perform live. She had also discovered the Beats, which gave her a picture of a lifestyle she began to emulate. In college, she began to sing with traditional folk groups, showing off a voice inspired by blues legend Bessie Smith. After dropping out, she made her way to San Francisco, where she joined Big Brother and the Holding Company. The most talented of the group, she attracted a devoted following and began to indulge in the excesses of the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. The author follows her tours with the band as well as her offstage life, which was full of sex and drugs. Touchingly, she still hoped for acceptance by her conservative family, as indicated in her letters home. After two albums, she had outgrown Big Brother and signed a record contract as a single artist with a new backup band. She was as big a star as any in the business, although her erratic lifestyle occasionally caused her to cancel dates. As her last album, Pearl, demonstrated, she continued to grow as an artist, but her death from a heroin overdose at age 27 cut her promising career short. George-Warren gives her subject a sensitive yet honest treatment, showing all dimensions of Joplin’s life without minimizing her self-destructive side. Filled with evocations of the San Francisco music scene at its height, the narrative will give readers new appreciation for Joplin.

A top-notch biography of one of the greatest performers to emerge from a brilliant era.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4767-9310-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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

NIGHT

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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