An emotionally saturated memoir: dynamic, moving, and colorful.



In her poignant debut memoir, entrepreneur and social activist Patterson unfolds her familial lineage of women who wrestled with marriage either through divorces or in their rejection of the institution altogether, often opting for “partnership without laws.”

As a slight-framed African-American girl who attended mostly white private schools, the author’s own coming-of-age in 1970s Manhattan was fraught with challenges. The virtual opposite of her turbulent sister Ramona, Patterson searched for her identity while navigating the 1980s world of music and style at nightclubs and in college, continually encouraged by her father to be courageous and resilient and to embrace her blackness. Adulthood forced her to choose between a career in publishing and a temporary gig at a strip club. “As sexist as stripping for money sounds,” she writes, “I was dictating my own worth.” Yet her greatest trial as a woman and a mother would arrive with the birth of her third child, Penelope, and the ensuing challenge of “living with a reality that has turned me upside down.” As a toddler, Penelope experienced a radical, unconventional “declaration of self,” telling her mother, “I am a boy.” Patterson openly shares details from those early years, which were fraught with so many strong emotions, including guilt, confusion, and fear that Penelope would be robbed of the “uncomplicated freedom” of so-called normalcy. After months of soul-searching and discussions with her extended family, who were unconditionally accepting, the author came to terms with the reality that Penelope would now be known as Penel, her son. These revelations and developments did not occur, however, without bearing the brunt of societal intolerance, cruelty, and questioning of Patterson as a mother. “The world is unkind to people it doesn’t understand—to those who don’t live by its rules,” she writes. The author’s journey of familial love and fearless motherhood will particularly resonate with parents of transgender children and anyone who has struggled to be loved or accepted.

An emotionally saturated memoir: dynamic, moving, and colorful.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-17901-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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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 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...


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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