A jovial, greatly contemplative, and uplifting memoir comprising anecdotes and apt memorialization mixed with an unmatched...

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NOTHING SPECIAL

JUST A LIFE

A Pennsylvania author and photographer shares spirited vignettes of joy and bittersweet change from a life of “hitches and contradictions.”  

Vastly pensive and thoughtful, Budzinski’s debut memoir reflects on the nature of death and lingers over its inevitability while pondering the importance of leaving a lasting legacy in one’s wake. As he aged, intellectual retention, the nature of memories, and living in the moment became paramount. “Enjoy the current moment and live it as best you can, because right now is the last time you will see it,” the Polish sexagenarian counsels. Always amiable, proactive, and never preachy, the author is a charming writer who applies a smooth conversational tone to the generous anecdotal mementos he shares. Committing a life to print is no easy task, he admits, recognizing that recollections fade with time and that there are so many “dots to connect” in order to fully and appropriately commemorate an eventful journey. Budzinski reaches back to his earliest days and draws stories from his youth in the 1960s and ’70s, delivering newspapers, bravely racing across spooky cemeteries with boyhood friends, loving Treasure Island and Star Wars, and serving as an impressionable altar boy. Young adulthood at a college in Virginia brought its share of new experiences and challenges. The author also contributes some favorite unique gifts he’s received and thought-provoking “life is strange” moments where interpersonal foibles make for humorous and intriguing reading. Some tales strike a more bittersweet note, as when Budzinski remembers his father who died when he was 8 years old and regrets that he “never had the chance to make promises to him.” Some recollections reflect the many transitions the author experienced, whether through childhood friendships, family, or other people, including Jennifer, the daughter of a longtime friend, whom he grew closer to as the years passed. Though some material becomes repetitive and his rhetorical questions tend to overwhelm pivotal points at times, all of Budzinski’s anecdotes and collected impressions are expressed unhurriedly, with exacting detail and the kind of writerly personality and passion that is delightfully palpable across the pages. “Many moments we carry with us will never make the highlight reel,” he laments. “We edit them out from the book of love that is our story.” Whether humorous, poignant, or insightfully sage, his tales and amiable prose will become cherished reading for older readers who can relate to the author’s need to savor memories and commit the best of the bunch to a significant, living epitaph of his days on Earth. Like spending a long, lazy afternoon on the front porch swing with a chatty, beloved grandparent, Budzinski’s personal stories resonate with all the grace, humor, dignity, and earned wisdom of a life well-lived.

A jovial, greatly contemplative, and uplifting memoir comprising anecdotes and apt memorialization mixed with an unmatched zest for life.   

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 203

Publisher: Outskirts Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2019

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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