A captivatingly candid and sharply written account of a gay adoptee’s odyssey.

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GRINNIN' LIKE A JACKASS EATIN' BRIARS

An adoptee discusses his struggles to conform in the American South and his difficulties coming to terms with his sexual identity in this memoir.

Born in Savannah, Georgia, in 1963, Batton was raised on a 700-acre peanut and tobacco farm. As a child, he recalls having a “Tom Sawyer existence,” although he had a fraught relationship with his adoptive father, whom he describes as a bigot and a “well-mannered racist.” By the age of 8, the author was already aware of his fascination with the male body but had no concept of gay sexuality. Growing older, he felt it necessary to disguise his “gayness,” but this changed after entering LaGrange College as a theater major; his life became a “blur of bars and boys.” Batton’s life changed again while attending a church service. He experienced a moment of epiphany, believing God had delivered him from being gay. The autobiography details the author’s attempts to “look inconspicuous in the straight world,” which involved marriage, fatherhood, and a passionate drive to help the poor. The last led him to work in outreach programs in Hong Kong and London. Written with Napoleon, who helped the author get the “story to paper,” this compelling first-person account chronicles Batton’s coming to terms with his identity as both an adoptee and a gay man. Elements of his life are desperately sad yet recounted with a brisk frankness. Regarding school, he notes: “If I could keep everyone laughing, then no one would call me a faggot. I shifted my entire persona to try to fit in and never be the last kid picked for kickball.” Batton also bravely owns up to deflecting attention away from himself by deriding others: “I was the personification of a shrike, a gruesome little creature that seemed to derive pleasure and sustenance from the slow feeding on others.” His use of language is modestly elegant, and while some readers may argue that he overuses similes, they inject a delightful levity throughout: “Grandfather was meaner than a wet hen in a rainstorm.” From recounting his endeavors to find his birth mother to describing his struggles with fatherhood, Batton presents a richly textured autobiography—readers grappling with their own sexuality may well relate to his journey of self-discovery.

A captivatingly candid and sharply written account of a gay adoptee’s odyssey.

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7348774-2-7

Page Count: 234

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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