There’s a catharsis for all by the end but no smooth path or easy arrival.

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MY BROTHER MOOCHIE

REGAINING DIGNITY IN THE FACE OF CRIME, POVERTY, AND RACISM IN THE AMERICAN SOUTH

A journalist comes to terms with the murder his beloved older brother committed, and a family tries to find some sort of redemption.

Bailey refuses to make things easy for either his readers or himself; he avoids pat analysis of the scourge of racism and never settles for simple answers. He implicates himself from the start, confessing that he had felt like murdering his wife and that he was enraged beyond reason at his teenage son, fearing that he would mature into the stereotype of a black thug so feared by society. The author admits that he resisted dating one woman to whom he was otherwise attracted because she was too dark and that he went to a predominantly white college rather than a historically black one even as he resented the entitlement and privilege surrounding him. If racism is partly responsible for the fate of men like Moochie, it could have just as easily been him. Instead, he has been left with what has been diagnosed as PTSD from his brother’s incarceration as well as a stutter that he has spent a lifetime trying to overcome. It is difficult to wrench these particulars into a conventional fable or morality tale, and the author doesn’t try. Instead, he wrestles with confusion and the contradiction of “how to love a murderer without excusing the murder.” Moochie had been a father figure to his younger brother, protecting their mother against the brutalities of the older man who had taken her as his child bride. He murdered a white man brutally and senselessly and has been sentenced to life in prison, where his attitudes on race have hardened. His brother became a journalist, writing about poverty and crime and racism for a predominantly white readership. At first, he wanted to deny Moochie’s guilt and prove his innocence, but then he had to make some sort of peace with what Moochie did and try to rise above it.

There’s a catharsis for all by the end but no smooth path or easy arrival.

Pub Date: May 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-59051-860-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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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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