An impossible mess of memory and desire.

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BROKEN FEVER

REFLECTIONS OF A GAY BOYHOOD

A collection of essays in which Morrison probes the beginnings of his gay self-identity—a process undoubtedly more intriguing for him than it is for us.

The author treads familiar ground in queer autobiography: childhood longings and confusions are trotted out like trick ponies as he advances from naïveté to knowledge. Violin lessons with a class of girls, the spiritual exigencies of Catholicism, the frustrations of family vacations, and a youthful crush on teen idol David Cassidy—these times and trials of youth serve as the basis of Morrison’s retrospective analysis of the intersection between sexuality and identity in his childhood. Even the tried-and-true twin locations of queer adolescent angst and opportunity—gym and drama class—make their obligatory appearance. The tales themselves offer the promised insight into Morrison’s queer apotheosis, but his floundering and fluctuating tone inhibits the graceful flow of the narrative. At different points in the narrative his voice mimics a sociologist (“In American suburbia, the acquisition of the family pet consolidates the family itself by way of the very processes of acquisition”), the heroine of a Harlequin romance (“ ‘Oh, Cadmus,’ I cry, ‘did you think I would forget you? How could I ever forget my own dear, sweet Cadmus?’ ”), and a New Age guru (“The boy dreams. In the dream he is alone”). Such jerky and stilted tones destroy the quiet accumulation of childhood memories that might have created a handsome patchwork of gay longings and musings. Any hope that such a delightfully queer amalgamation may arise, however, dashes to pieces at such moments of irrelevance as (to take just one example) the author’s extended reflections on President Clinton and the Lewinsky scandal. With more scenes of boyhood wrestling and less pontificating, Morrison’s story might have found its way. But that was not to be.

An impossible mess of memory and desire.

Pub Date: March 14, 2001

ISBN: 0-312-26129-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2001

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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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