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THE CHATTAHOOCHEE BOYS

A collection of warm memories; an unaffected ode to a faded, Southern way of growing up.

A debut memoir that tracks the early life, hijinks and carefree days of a Southern mill-town boy.

Baker and his childhood friends—often nameless and always mischievous—flooded a Depression-era Atlanta suburb with their tricks. Life was “hard and money was scarce for the people who worked in the cotton mill and lived in the village.” A little shabby, but better off than many of the families of the Great Depression, the boys poach golf balls, chase baseballs, peep at girls, steal turnips and dodge ornery neighbors. They pound rats, repeat grades, roll sloppy cigarettes, covet each others’ hunting boots and slowly discover the joys and terrors of girls. And that’s all before high school starts. The scenes are self-contained and read like they’re told from a porch rocker. The forgettable anecdotes rely on slim memories and trivial details. But the best of the group relate the hard coming-of-age realities the boys uncover, usually by accident. In one, an older girl is jilted by her faraway sailor. In another, the author discovers that, though he never before had cause to think about it, his father’s job makes him unwelcome in one of Atlanta’s finer neighborhoods. Baker describes a string of teenage spare-change jobs, one of which included breaking down junk cars all the way to their seat springs. His book follows a similar track. Each chapter shows a set piece or shenanigan, like an isolated car part, in detail—from Halloween pranks to stolen rowboats and from skinny-dipping to tent-revival kissing—but no cohesive narrative emerges to crank the engine and keep the parts moving together.

A collection of warm memories; an unaffected ode to a faded, Southern way of growing up. 

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2011

ISBN: 978-1461188582

Page Count: 172

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2012

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I'M GLAD MY MOM DIED

The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

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The former iCarly star reflects on her difficult childhood.

In her debut memoir, titled after her 2020 one-woman show, singer and actor McCurdy (b. 1992) reveals the raw details of what she describes as years of emotional abuse at the hands of her demanding, emotionally unstable stage mom, Debra. Born in Los Angeles, the author, along with three older brothers, grew up in a home controlled by her mother. When McCurdy was 3, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though she initially survived, the disease’s recurrence would ultimately take her life when the author was 21. McCurdy candidly reconstructs those in-between years, showing how “my mom emotionally, mentally, and physically abused me in ways that will forever impact me.” Insistent on molding her only daughter into “Mommy’s little actress,” Debra shuffled her to auditions beginning at age 6. As she matured and starting booking acting gigs, McCurdy remained “desperate to impress Mom,” while Debra became increasingly obsessive about her daughter’s physical appearance. She tinted her daughter’s eyelashes, whitened her teeth, enforced a tightly monitored regimen of “calorie restriction,” and performed regular genital exams on her as a teenager. Eventually, the author grew understandably resentful and tried to distance herself from her mother. As a young celebrity, however, McCurdy became vulnerable to eating disorders, alcohol addiction, self-loathing, and unstable relationships. Throughout the book, she honestly portrays Debra’s cruel perfectionist personality and abusive behavior patterns, showing a woman who could get enraged by everything from crooked eyeliner to spilled milk. At the same time, McCurdy exhibits compassion for her deeply flawed mother. Late in the book, she shares a crushing secret her father revealed to her as an adult. While McCurdy didn’t emerge from her childhood unscathed, she’s managed to spin her harrowing experience into a sold-out stage act and achieve a form of catharsis that puts her mind, body, and acting career at peace.

The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982185-82-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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ON JUNETEENTH

A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

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The Harvard historian and Texas native demonstrates what the holiday means to her and to the rest of the nation.

Initially celebrated primarily by Black Texans, Juneteenth refers to June 19, 1865, when a Union general arrived in Galveston to proclaim the end of slavery with the defeat of the Confederacy. If only history were that simple. In her latest, Gordon-Reed, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and numerous other honors, describes how Whites raged and committed violence against celebratory Blacks as racism in Texas and across the country continued to spread through segregation, Jim Crow laws, and separate-but-equal rationalizations. As Gordon-Reed amply shows in this smooth combination of memoir, essay, and history, such racism is by no means a thing of the past, even as Juneteenth has come to be celebrated by all of Texas and throughout the U.S. The Galveston announcement, notes the author, came well after the Emancipation Proclamation but before the ratification of the 13th Amendment. Though Gordon-Reed writes fondly of her native state, especially the strong familial ties and sense of community, she acknowledges her challenges as a woman of color in a state where “the image of Texas has a gender and a race: “Texas is a White man.” The author astutely explores “what that means for everyone who lives in Texas and is not a White man.” With all of its diversity and geographic expanse, Texas also has a singular history—as part of Mexico, as its own republic from 1836 to 1846, and as a place that “has connections to people of African descent that go back centuries.” All of this provides context for the uniqueness of this historical moment, which Gordon-Reed explores with her characteristic rigor and insight.

A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63149-883-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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