A fine collection of essays on identity, at once wide-ranging and site-specific.

THIS WAY BACK

A Greek American considers her family and identity through the lens of her family’s homeland of Cyprus.

In this winning and contemplative collection, Eleftheriou considers her divided self in a variety of ways. She’s a New Yorker who’s still deeply connected to Cyprus, where her father grew up and where she spent much of her childhood. She’s Greek but formed by American culture, especially books by writers like Laura Ingalls Wilder. She’s an out lesbian but still bearing the weight of religious and cultural dictates that kept her closeted for years. In one essay, she finds an effective metaphor for this split in Cyprus itself, which remains divided into Greek and Turkish sections; taking a road trip into the Turkish north, she considers questions of betrayal, history, secrets, and grudges. “The island is like a human bone that has been badly broken but that no doctor ever set,” she writes. But Eleftheriou feels free to rove around a variety of subjects, letting the theme of division emerge rather than announce it. She discusses the firebrand actress Melina Mercouri, at once a Hollywood glamour queen and outspoken critic of the 1970s Greek dictatorship; family squabbles over her late father’s property emphasize an unsettled sense of place. It’s all intimate and a touch mournful, most powerfully so when the author writes about her sexuality. Cyprus did not have a pride parade until 2014, with marchers facing violent attacks and persecution. Much of Eleftheriou’s writing on the subject is candid about finding her voice and standing her ground amid a homophobic culture. (She recalls a Greek Orthodox priest telling her being gay was “like being deformed.”) A more chronological arrangement would clarify her family history and personal journey, but in any order, these essays reveal an impassioned and hard-fought sense of self and place.

A fine collection of essays on identity, at once wide-ranging and site-specific.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-949199-66-6

Page Count: 264

Publisher: West Virginia Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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