An extraordinarily brave work of self- and cultural reflection.

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THINGS WE DIDN'T TALK ABOUT WHEN I WAS A GIRL

A MEMOIR

After 14 years, a survivor of rape chronicles her interviews with the man who assaulted her, a former friend.

Inside the swirling “zeitgeist” of the #MeToo movement, Vanasco (English/Towson Univ.; The Glass Eye, 2017) decided not only to write about the experience that still gives her nightmares, but also to include the perspective of the person who raped her. Over emails, phone calls, and in-person conversations, the author interviewed her former friend, Mark, and tried to make sense of his inexplicable betrayal as well as her own ambivalence toward him: “I doubt I’m the only woman sexually assaulted by a friend and confused about her feelings,” she writes. At every step of this harrowing process, from deciding how to approach Mark after years without contact to transcribing and interpreting their conversations, the author scrutinizes her own motivations, her compulsive caretaking of Mark’s discomfort during their discussions, and the lasting impact of the trauma that he caused her. Perspectives from Vanasco’s friends, her partner, and her therapist also figure heavily into the narrative, emphasizing how crucial it is for survivors to have wide networks of support. With deep self-consciousness, courage, and nuance, the author reveals the inner universe of her survivorship and interrogates the notion that rapists are two-dimensionally evil. A friend of Vanasco’s reflects, “how can someone who seems so harmless or acts so well or is so intelligent be capable of committing what is understandably kind of an evil act and how can it happen?” Though the author does not exactly answer these questions through her interviews with Mark, her engrossing, complex, incisive testament to the banality of violence is not a desolate narrative. Instead, Vanasco invites her readers to understand the complicated humanity involved in both causing and experiencing harm, leaving the limits and possibilities of accountability and healing as urgent, open questions.

An extraordinarily brave work of self- and cultural reflection.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-947793-45-3

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Tin House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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