While this reads like a memoir, a faint suspicion lingers that it could be fiction, like the author’s previous work (The...


Engrossing, no-holds-barred story of a college lecturer by day and a callgirl by night.

When a live-in boyfriend (known here only as Peter the Rat Bastard) moved out in the mid-1990s and took the contents of their joint checking account with him, the author was strapped for cash. To supplement her small income as an adjunct sociology lecturer at a Boston-area college, she contacted the owner of an escort service whose ad had caught her attention. As a callgirl—in her view, “a skilled professional possessing an area of knowledge for which there is a demand”—she could net $140 an hour plus tips and keep her respectable day job. Angell signed on and found that her clients were ordinary guys, much like the men she had dated. Her blow-by-blow accounts of her encounters range from sexless eating bouts with a restaurant owner to an evening with a man who just wanted to wear her undergarments to “doubles” sessions with a client and a second callgirl. It’s not all action, however; the author gives ample space to her thoughts about sex and prostitution. Besides the close-ups of the clients and their quirks, she paints deft profiles of the escort-service owner, known here as Peach, and of a cocaine-addicted co-worker. Angell brought the two sides of her life together in a course on the history and sociology of prostitution that led to some academic recognition and a heavier teaching load. Eventually, aware that her classroom work was deteriorating and that she wasn’t getting any younger (she was in her mid-30s), she decided to quit her night job, pushed over the edge by a frightening brush with the law.

While this reads like a memoir, a faint suspicion lingers that it could be fiction, like the author’s previous work (The Illusionist, 2000, etc.). Either way, it provides a revelatory view of a life few women know much about.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2004

ISBN: 1-57962-110-4

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Permanent Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2004

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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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