This well-crafted examination of spiritual longing shows how one woman has carved out a niche inside the religion she loves...

A scholar of religion and culture struggles to integrate her strong religious beliefs with a deepening awareness of social injustice.

Brooks (American Lazarus: Religion and the Rise of African-American and Native American Literatures, 2003, etc.) evokes the close-knit joys and apocalyptic fears of growing up within the Mormon Church during the 1970s and ’80s, a time many Mormons believed to be the prophesied “latter days.” Living in California, far from the welcoming environs of Utah, she endured snickers about sacred undergarments and angels from other planets, agonized over drinking Sprite while the other children drank Coca-Cola, and cringed through a humiliating anti-Mormon comedy routine at a friend’s evangelical megachurch. While the author also emphasizes the positive aspects of Mormonism, especially the industrious goodwill fostered by a long line of pioneer ancestors, she excels at portraying the complexities of doubt in the midst of faith. In one powerful chapter, she recounts how she confessed to her bishop, per church doctrine, that she had had a premarital sexual experience; the bishop responded with a parable about a school-bus driver who was able to avert disaster by putting on the brakes before hitting a train. Feeling empty and patronized, she experienced disillusionment with the traditional Mormon view of sexuality but found refuge in the teachings of feminist professors at Brigham Young University. In the early ’90s, however, the church began a crackdown on dissidents, and several of these professors resigned; Brooks returned her BYU diploma in protest. She describes the decade after graduation as a time of exile when she felt estranged from her faith yet also worked toward a doctorate degree, married a Jewish man, and gave birth to two daughters. Eventually making her way back to the church on her own terms, she declares herself “an unorthodox Mormon woman with a fierce and hungry faith.”

This well-crafted examination of spiritual longing shows how one woman has carved out a niche inside the religion she loves despite its contradictions.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-9968-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012


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

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



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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