Deftly written, with a tonal command that complements a child’s observations with an adult’s insights.

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RERUN ERA

An elliptical and elusive memoir that skips back and forth across time and circles back on itself as the author comes to terms with events and circumstances in a way that she couldn’t comprehend as a young child.

“I am five,” writes Howard (Literature/Denver Univ.; Foreign Correspondent, 2013, etc.), of a time when her father’s health and her family both seemed to be falling apart. “It’s probably only a few months or slightly more. Any time is a very long time, and all that time is time in the memory of an unformed mind. Be careful, my therapist reminds me, now, in these much later days: those may be screen memories…the memories that we put in place to protect us from worse memories.” This is one of the rare intrusions of the author’s adulthood on her impressions as a child, when coming-of-age in hardscrabble Oklahoma didn’t seem as toxic as she would later realize it was, when her parents’ marriage wasn’t as unstable as it would soon prove to be, and when TV reruns, turning time into something of a jigsaw puzzle, seemed as real as whatever she was experiencing in her so-called real life. Actors on TV (including musician Jerry Reed) become more vivid characters in her memory—and her memoir—than the members of her family. Over the course of this brief memoir, everything changes, primarily because of the stroke suffered by Howard’s father, who had been in the process of leaving her mother and moving in with his girlfriend, starting a new life. That new life proved stillborn, though the tension between mother and girlfriend intensified as the stroke and subsequent surgeries left her father “a patchwork doll.” Instead, the author is the one who found new life. She is the one who got away, the one that those left behind resent because she escaped “this hell hole.”

Deftly written, with a tonal command that complements a child’s observations with an adult’s insights.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-944211-67-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: McSweeney’s

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 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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