Candid, often sordid, and definitely a page-turner.

BECOMING SUPERMAN

MY JOURNEY FROM POVERTY TO HOLLYWOOD

A hugely successful writer for TV, movies, and comics makes his debut as a memoirist with a stunning chronicle of survival.

Straczynski grew up in a destructive family, subjected to “the worst kinds of physical, psychological, and emotional torture” by an alcoholic, violently abusive father, a lifelong admirer of Nazis; a depressed mother, repeatedly institutionalized, who once dropped her young son from a roof; and a grandmother who tried to sexually abuse him. The family was rootless, moving 21 times in 19 years, often fleeing in the middle of the night and “roaring cross-country in an alcohol-fueled haze of drunken violence” to take up residence somewhere else. In one unheated apartment, ill with pneumonia, the author slept in front of an open oven door all night for warmth. He suffered corporal punishment at a Catholic school run by angry nuns and was victimized by bullies elsewhere. Comics, and especially Superman, provided Straczynski with escape and hope. Morally upright, patient, gentle, and powerful, the valiant hero became his model. A bright spot in his dismal childhood occurred in his senior year of high school, when two teachers saw his potential and invested “time, effort, and belief” in him, praising his writing and encouraging him. The author recounts his rocky start as a writer, sending short stories to magazines and collecting rejection slips; getting a gig as a humor columnist for a college newspaper; taking creative writing classes; and submitting reviews, feature articles, screenplays for sitcom pilots, and scripts. He wrote tirelessly and obsessively, not eating or sleeping, until finally some of his efforts bore fruit. Successes, which seemed like miracles, often were followed with spectacular failures. Although he encourages young writers to work hard and follow their passion, the viciously competitive and capricious entertainment industry, as he portrays it, is not for the faint-hearted. Besides recalling professional challenges, Straczynski admits personal struggles resulting from emotional wounds: “social awkwardness” and “compulsive self-reliance” that made him unable to form lasting relationships.

Candid, often sordid, and definitely a page-turner.

Pub Date: July 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-285784-2

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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 Books

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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