A frank, earnest memoir of the difficulties of parenthood.


Morgan recounts her struggles to mother a troubled man in this debut mental health memoir.

As a single mother of an adolescent boy, Morgan reminded herself to pay close attention, knowing Dylan—like all sons—would change as he grew older. It wasn’t until June of 2011—when the then-23-year-old Dylan was arrested for firing an illegal gun after a party and was then also found to be growing marijuana in his apartment—that she realized just how far he had drifted from the boy she knew. Morgan, a college professor, was at first horrified by the impending gossip sure to spread through the small conservative Kentucky town, but she began to consider the warning signs: Dylan’s struggles with bipolar disorder, his DUIs, his refusal to find a job. After some cajoling, Dylan agreed to enter a Drug Court program that would help him avoid his three felony charges, though he only had one shot. Any mistakes would have landed him in jail. To ensure that Dylan completed the program, Morgan realized she needed to change strategies—to be more understanding of her son’s mental health and addiction problems, while not being too lenient. Morgan was forced to also consider her own co-dependency and find a path through the minefield of motherhood to save both her son and herself. Morgan’s prose is ruminative and laden with imagistic language: “For a long time, while my son was very young, I thought he was a smaller version of Attila the Hun. I thought he had only three settings on his dial: brash, bold, and barbarian.” Dylan is a difficult, often infuriating figure, and Morgan confronts his issues (and her own) with candid, sometimes-painful self-awareness. Her accounts of the justice system and rehabilitation are illuminating, and while the details sometimes overwhelm, the reading experience manages to capture the immense frustration that she (and others) no doubt felt. If memoirs exist to depict how some navigate situations that others can’t imagine, this one is a great success.

A frank, earnest memoir of the difficulties of parenthood.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63152-644-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2019

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A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.



In her first nonfiction book, novelist Grande (Dancing with Butterflies, 2009, etc.) delves into her family’s cycle of separation and reunification.

Raised in poverty so severe that spaghetti reminded her of the tapeworms endemic to children in her Mexican hometown, the author is her family’s only college graduate and writer, whose honors include an American Book Award and International Latino Book Award. Though she was too young to remember her father when he entered the United States illegally seeking money to improve life for his family, she idolized him from afar. However, she also blamed him for taking away her mother after he sent for her when the author was not yet 5 years old. Though she emulated her sister, she ultimately answered to herself, and both siblings constantly sought affirmation of their parents’ love, whether they were present or not. When one caused disappointment, the siblings focused their hopes on the other. These contradictions prove to be the narrator’s hallmarks, as she consistently displays a fierce willingness to ask tough questions, accept startling answers, and candidly render emotional and physical violence. Even as a girl, Grande understood the redemptive power of language to define—in the U.S., her name’s literal translation, “big queen,” led to ridicule from other children—and to complicate. In spelling class, when a teacher used the sentence “my mamá loves me” (mi mamá me ama), Grande decided to “rearrange the words so that they formed a question: ¿Me ama mi mamá? Does my mama love me?”

A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6177-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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