An unvarnished, memorable portrayal of a mother’s grief and love.

DANCING IN THE MOSQUE

AN AFGHAN MOTHER'S LETTER TO HER SON

A powerful narrative of a life marked by courage and despair.

In a riveting memoir, Qaderi recounts her life story for the son she left behind in Afghanistan. When she refused to accept her husband’s taking a second wife, he divorced her, taking away their 19-month-old child. “Every day I regret my decision to leave you,” she writes in a moving testimony to her love. The author was a young girl during the brutal Russian occupation of Afghanistan; two years after the Russians left in 1989, the Taliban rose to power. Suddenly streets were filled with “young men with beards and long hair and kohl eyeliner…tall and thin as if they had been starved for years.” They instituted Sharia law, closed girls schools, and forbade reading; those who disobeyed were publicly whipped or worse. Describing herself as a troublemaker, Qaderi rebelled, daring to home-school girls when she was 13 and soon secretly teaching girls, boys, and even two young members of the Taliban within a mosque. It was there that one of her students taught her to dance—at the risk of all their lives. Boldly, Qaderi managed to set up a writing class under the guise of learning needlework. Merely being female made her physically vulnerable. She was twice sexually harassed, once by a lewd religious leader. Taliban men often forced young girls to marry them, a fate she feared. At the age of 17, her family considered her lucky to marry a local man, and she was taken to live with his family in Tehran. There, women’s freedom amazed her. “In Iran,” she writes, “a good woman could be an independent and educated woman.” Married for 15 years to a husband she grew to love, and who supported her accomplishments, she was shocked when, after they returned to Kabul, he announced that he would take another wife—an act she could not abide.

An unvarnished, memorable portrayal of a mother’s grief and love.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297031-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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