A fascinating story with a tight focus, though the writing is closer to a comic book than a journalistic piece.

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MANDELA AND THE GENERAL

A concise graphic narrative of secret negotiations that helped keep the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa from becoming even more of a bloodbath.

The heroism of Nelson Mandela has earned him international renown and respect. Veteran British journalist Carlin (Chase Your Shadow: The Trials of Oscar Pistorius, 2014, etc.), who served as South African correspondent through the era depicted here, tells the story from the perspective of the other protagonist, Constand Viljoen, the general who had formerly been Mandela’s chief antagonist. Viljoen was the military chief of apartheid South Africa; in his retirement, he continued to view Mandela as a communist and the enemy of white South Africa. Yet times were changing, and the general’s brother was changing with them, advancing the argument that patriotism required serving the best interests of all South Africans, black and white. Amid the democratic reforms and Mandela’s release from prison, it was clear that the black citizens had the numbers on their side while the armed white forces retained the firepower. Viljoen had entered his retirement feeling “powerless to stop my country descending into darkness and despair.” As the struggle between black and white intensified, white nationalists implored the general to unite their factional divisions: “You are a legend in the South African military; you are the only leader capable of uniting us into one force capable of stopping Mandela.” The general believed in this mission, but his brother served as an intermediary from Mandela to arrange a meeting, where the two felt mutual respect and forged a common goal, a peaceful resolution with a government that would provide representation for both black and white. When they went public with their views, both were denounced by radicals who wanted total victory for their side, but that cost in human life would have been devastating. The general served his president and called him “the greatest of men.” Though dialogue drives the narrative, the most striking art has the fewest words, as illustrator Malet provides some historical context for the negotiations.

A fascinating story with a tight focus, though the writing is closer to a comic book than a journalistic piece.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-87486-820-3

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Plough

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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