As the family photos illustrating this memoir attest, for Smith, all was sunshine, smiles, and elegance.

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THE NINE OF US

GROWING UP KENNEDY

Fond memories from the last surviving child of Joseph and Rose Kennedy.

Smith, the eighth of her parents’ nine children, offers a warm portrait of her happy childhood, when she reveled in the company of her brothers and sisters, guided by her inspiring, supportive parents. Born in 1928, she grew up in their Bronxville home, where the family moved from Brookline, Massachusetts, to be closer to Joseph Kennedy’s work in Manhattan, and in their beloved summer house in Hyannis Port, on Cape Cod. “Saltwater was in our blood,” she writes, “in our genes.” Smith portrays Joe as a devoted father and husband who “flooded us with affection” and enjoyed nothing more than dinner—promptly served at 7:15—surrounded by his adoring clan. Dinner conversation veered toward politics, with “a lighthearted game” that consisted of quizzes about what each child would do if confronted with one political problem or another. Both parents instilled in the children a sense of service and responsibility; Rose was a stickler for lessons, which she felt “strengthened our knowledge and resolve.” These included music, sports, art, languages, and whatever “subject and hobby that interested us, and even some that did not.” Managing nine children involved discipline and organization. Anyone who disobeyed was sent to Rose’ clothes closet for punishment. She guided the children’s mealtime and bedtime prayers, and she kept track of their “vital statistics” on index cards, which she updated each week. Smith idolized her older brothers Joe (who was her godfather) and Jack (godfather to Teddy); her closest playmate was Teddy, the last born; and she adored her elegant sisters Kick and Pat. Smith defends her parents’ decision to treat Rosemary’s “anxieties” and “agitation” with a lobotomy, which went “tragically wrong.” As with other losses and crises, the family “could do only one thing in the aftermath: move forward.” The author’s idealized view of her family counters many biographical portraits of the Kennedys.

As the family photos illustrating this memoir attest, for Smith, all was sunshine, smiles, and elegance.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-244422-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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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 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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