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SOME GIRLS

MY LIFE IN A HAREM

A gritty, melancholy memoir leavened by the author’s amiable, engrossing narrative tenor.

The journey of a teenaged theater-school dropout enticed into traveling to Southeast Asia to be a “harem girl.”

Christened “Mariah” by her ballerina birth mother, the author was renamed “Jillian” by her Jewish adoptive parents who acquired her through an illegal “gray-market” transaction. A rocky childhood in suburban New Jersey was followed by a hardscrabble tenure in Manhattan after the author abandoned a New York University education, opting instead for the “proverbial school of life.” Desperate for cash, she exchanged waitressing for stripping, then began escorting for a madam. In the early 1990s, a lucrative offer to “amuse a rich businessman in Singapore” seemed too good to pass up, and it was revealed that the job was really with Prince Jefri (nicknamed “Robin”) of the affluent Brunei royal family. Eager to be relieved of her East Coast “bohemian mantle,” Lauren abandoned a loving boyfriend and her hospitalized father to embrace an “alarming recklessness,” flying to Singapore with only $30, which she spent on a cab to the airport. Together with “Destiny,” another girl chosen from the interviews, Lauren arrived at a high-walled palace, was stripped of her passport and embarked on a life of endless late-night parties populated by beautiful, multicultural and highly competitive women. Crash courses on etiquette, bowing, Muslim customs and basic subservient behavior ensued, all preparing her for the brilliance and ease of an opulent lifestyle with playboy prince Robin. After extending her stay, however, depression, homesickness and harsh reality sent her back to New York, where an unwelcome pregnancy spurred a fruitless search for her birth mother, along with a few shocking twists. Lauren, who considers singer Patti Smith “the barometer of all things cool and right,” is a deft storyteller, imparting equal parts poignant reflection and wisdom into her enlightening book.

A gritty, melancholy memoir leavened by the author’s amiable, engrossing narrative tenor.

Pub Date: April 27, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-452-29631-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Plume

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2010

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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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