One woman’s deft, thoughtful account of Muslim-American and male-female relationships.


Travels Unveiled


A personal memoir that travels decades, cultures, and many miles.

This is a man’s world, and no one knows it better that Juba, whose memoir—her first book—opens in 1999 in the unlikely setting of rural Pakistan. While staying in a hotel there, she responded to a request from her guide that she—as an American, who therefore must be smart—fix a satellite dish for some other guests. She replied willingly, only to find that the guests in question were Taliban; there was no room for mistakes, electrical or otherwise, particularly with her being an employee of the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. In an extended flashback beginning with the next chapter, she details how she came to find herself in such a precarious situation. As a directionless youngster, she was an Affirmative Action recruit for a construction road crew and thus became one of the few women working in a male-dominated field. The challenges were real, from being denied opportunities for promotion and advancement to sexual harassment. Juba learned that her greatest chance for success lay in being observant and more or less invisible, to play by the rules, not make waves, but to learn everything she could about “the games men play”—the coded ways they interact with each other and with women. The knowledge she gained served her well in her second career with the U.S. diplomatic corps in the Foreign Service. Initially stationed in Islamabad, she interacted on a daily basis with conservative Muslims whose attitudes about women’s roles outside the home were profoundly different than those in America yet in some ways distressingly similar. In Pakistan, Juba had to navigate her otherness not only as a woman, but also as an American, walking a fine line between respecting cultural sensitivities and “leaning in” as a professional woman. Her stories about how she handled her interactions with the locals—almost all men, since Pakistani women have limited professional opportunities—are genuine, often funny, and sometimes frightening, as with the Taliban story. The stories also comprise an appealing travelogue as Juba, her colleagues, and their handlers traverse the enormous, diverse country seldom seen by Westerners. One flaw—possibly unavoidable due to professional restraint—is that apart from a harrowing chapter about the aftermath of the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombing in Nairobi, which Juba was sent to help oversee, readers learn little about what Juba’s job actually entailed.

One woman’s deft, thoughtful account of Muslim-American and male-female relationships.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5052-4867-8

Page Count: 154

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2015

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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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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.


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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