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A WORLD WAR II MEMOIR

A stirring account of a prisoner-of-war’s tormenting trial.

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O’Neill’s harrowing memoir chronicles his time as a prisoner of German forces during World War II.

The author was drafted into the United States Army in 1942 and served with the “Tigers” of the 61st Armored Infantry Battalion, an element of the 10th Armored Division. He survived the Battle of the Bulge and the Siege of Bastogne, but was shortly after captured by German soldiers in 1945, only four months before the fighting ceased. Over the next few months he was forced to march 500 miles, walking as many as 20 miles a day and subsisting on meager and sporadic rations of bread and water. Like his fellow prisoners, O’Neill was exhausted and demoralized, caked in dirt and grime, and terrified for his life, his existence reduced to a “series of blunt degradations.” In addition to the threat of execution by the Germans, the author also feared an air raid by his fellow Americans, who were conducting devastating night missions. O’Neill chillingly depicts the “debasement of total war,” the bleak manner in which he saw his own measure of humanity gradually dwindle in the face of starvation and humiliation. One “demon farmer” taunted the men with rotten potatoes, throwing a few over the fence that separated them to see them lustfully leap for the putrid spuds like desperate animals. Just as jarring was his experience traveling through towns the Americans had bombed beyond recognition. Once, an old man came out to meet them, carrying in his arms the corpse of a young girl, an act of both despair and moral indictment. This brief remembrance is edited by the author’s nephew, Scott MacGregor, who provides helpful autobiographical and historical context, including a melancholic account of the struggles O’Neill wrestled with following the war. Graphic black-and-white illustrations are provided by Dumm—haunting pictures that punctuate the terror the author experienced.

While this account doesn’t add much new to the historical record—the experiences of prisoners of war under German control have been exhaustively documented—O’Neill does illuminate the strangeness of it all, as well as the moral murkiness of his predicament. At one point, a German guard belittled him harshly while angrily insisting that he have a second bowl of soup, making the guard’s intention inscrutable. On another day, the author felt a hand attempt to shove a pistol into his pocket, a gift (or curse) he lividly refused. Amidst the “unbroken sequence of physical misery and mental depression,” there were also unsolvable mysteries, bizarre mortifications, and, very occasionally, minor expressions of tender kindness. O’Neill’s prose can be clunky and ponderous—occasionally, he stretches too laboriously for existential profundity (“I do not say coldly that men should annotate the dimensions of emotion when they are consumed with agony. I do say there is something better than what happened to these prisoners of whom I was one in every sense”). Despite these infelicities, this is a powerful work brimming with nuance and insight.

A stirring account of a prisoner-of-war’s tormenting trial.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9798988486114

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Gatekeeper Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2024

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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TANQUERAY

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

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A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

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LOVE, PAMELA

A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.

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The iconic model tells the story of her eventful life.

According to the acknowledgments, this memoir started as "a fifty-page poem and then grew into hundreds of pages of…more poetry." Readers will be glad that Anderson eventually turned to writing prose, since the well-told anecdotes and memorable character sketches are what make it a page-turner. The poetry (more accurately described as italicized notes-to-self with line breaks) remains strewn liberally through the pages, often summarizing the takeaway or the emotional impact of the events described: "I was / and still am / an exceptionally / easy target. / And, / I'm proud of that." This way of expressing herself is part of who she is, formed partly by her passion for Anaïs Nin and other writers; she is a serious maven of literature and the arts. The narrative gets off to a good start with Anderson’s nostalgic memories of her childhood in coastal Vancouver, raised by very young, very wild, and not very competent parents. Here and throughout the book, the author displays a remarkable lack of anger. She has faced abuse and mistreatment of many kinds over the decades, but she touches on the most appalling passages lightly—though not so lightly you don't feel the torment of the media attention on the events leading up to her divorce from Tommy Lee. Her trip to the pages of Playboy, which involved an escape from a violent fiance and sneaking across the border, is one of many jaw-dropping stories. In one interesting passage, Julian Assange's mother counsels Anderson to desexualize her image in order to be taken more seriously as an activist. She decided that “it was too late to turn back now”—that sexy is an inalienable part of who she is. Throughout her account of this kooky, messed-up, enviable, and often thrilling life, her humility (her sons "are true miracles, considering the gene pool") never fails her.

A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2023

ISBN: 9780063226562

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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