The author’s warm portraits and disarming honesty infuse the memoir with an endearing sweetness and charm.

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I BLAME DENNIS HOPPER

AND OTHER STORIES FROM A LIFE LIVED IN AND OUT OF THE MOVIES

Actress, producer, and director Douglas celebrates her love of movies in a cheerful debut memoir.

The granddaughter of actor Melvyn Douglas, the author grew up in a hippie commune started by her father, who rejected a suburban, middle-class version of the American dream after he saw Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider. His daughter yearned to escape from her parents’ self-imposed poverty and become a movie star. “We look up to movie stars,” she writes. “We believe in them, because they are larger than life, and it makes us believe in ourselves when no one else does.” Channeling Liza Minnelli, Douglas was accepted into the Hartford Stage Youth Theatre, which set her on a path to acting schools in New York. Her career was marked by “dreams and magic signs that foretell where you’re going” and helped smooth the inevitable rough spots. On the way to success, the author recounts meetings with many movie idols who encouraged her: Lee Marvin (“my childhood sweetheart,” she confesses), who kissed her and wished her luck; Peter Sellers, who told her to learn to ride a unicycle “because it’s hard and not everyone can do it”; and Richard Dreyfuss, with whom she was obsessed. “He was the first actor I studied,” she writes, “and tried to be like, like a painter copying a master until he has a technique of his own.” Other luminaries who make appearances include the generous and understanding Roddy McDowall; Robert De Niro, with whom Douglas acted in Cape Fear; “kind and adorable” Gene Wilder; and Martin Scorsese, who was her boyfriend for a while. She also describes an emotional meeting with Marlon Brando and recalls her success at producing Easy to Assemble, a satirical series made with IKEA’s cooperation.

The author’s warm portraits and disarming honesty infuse the memoir with an endearing sweetness and charm.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05291-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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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