A cleareyed portrait of a spirited, and troubled, family.

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FAMOUS FATHER GIRL

A MEMOIR OF GROWING UP BERNSTEIN

The challenges of living with a flamboyant, self-centered, and brilliant father.

Making her literary debut, broadcaster and filmmaker Bernstein offers an intimate, gossipy, and candid memoir of growing up the eldest child of renowned conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990). When a second-grade classmate called her “famous father girl,” Jamie did not yet feel the impact of her father’s fame; but within a few years, she began to realize what it meant. The “endless parade of triumphs and that blazing energy that overtook every situation could be exhausting to live with,” she recalls. LB, as he was known, “was a daredevil; he loved roller coasters, fast boats, vertiginous ski slopes,” and the author yearned to be just like him rather than like her mother, “the family policeman and Lenny stabilizer.” Family life buzzed with activity and famous visitors: Stephen Sondheim, for one, who started them playing fiercely competitive “cutthroat” anagrams; and the “notoriously imperious” Lauren Bacall, who was their neighbor at the Dakota. Her father’s fame had benefits: With LB, Jamie got to go backstage to meet the Beatles, making her the envy of her friends; and through his connections, she got various jobs and eventually pursued her dream of becoming a rock musician. One summer, working at Tanglewood, where LB had been in the festival’s first conducting class, she heard rumors of his “wild youth,” which included “amorous escapades with other men.” When she confronted LB, he denied the rumors, claiming that “wicked stories” were made up by envious detractors. But a few years later, he fell in love with an assistant, an affair that led to his leaving his wife; “acting exuberantly gay,” he embarked on a new life. Although her mother had known of LB’s homosexuality when they married, this new turn incited grief and depression. Jamie reflects sensitively about her mother, who died of cancer in 1978, and the particular challenges faced by her brother and sister.

A cleareyed portrait of a spirited, and troubled, family.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-264135-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 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 eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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