A vivid, moving account of addiction, trauma, and hard-won triumph by two survivors.

The Painting and The Piano


Two adults overcome damaging childhoods and addictions to find each other and rebuild their lives together in this affecting debut memoir.

Though the two authors didn’t meet until they were adults in recovery and come from very different backgrounds, their struggles with alcoholism brought them together. While Lugo says she was actually born addicted to heroin, she spent most of her early childhood raised by loving foster parents, the Cahns, on Long Island. But when her biological parents returned to reclaim custody, the Cahns were ultimately forced to give her up despite her wishes and a lengthy court battle. Her time with her biological parents was marked by physical and verbal abuse that left scars that lingered through adulthood. Lipscomb, by contrast, was raised in an upscale Missouri suburb by a very prominent family. Yet his beautiful socialite mother was a raging alcoholic whose behavior caused the breakup of her marriage. Lipscomb began drinking himself as a teenager, and his alcoholism started to consume him, destroying his first marriage and causing him to lose custody of his children. Eventually he sought treatment from Alcoholics Anonymous, where he met Lugo, who was in an unhappy marriage and addicted to both alcohol and pills. As they became closer, romantically and emotionally, they began to heal; the title refers to two happy memories of their respective childhoods that they embraced, with a renewed sense of peace. The memoir is written in an accessible narrative style, with each chapter alternating between the two authors. Toward the end, when the narrative begins to give way to platitudes like “We believe that if we can find our way to the light, then anyone can,” the story starts to feel a little repetitive. Yet those words do feel genuine because of the despair and joy detailed in the previous pages. This memoir should serve as, in the authors’ words, “a roadmap of sorts” for others.

 A vivid, moving account of addiction, trauma, and hard-won triumph by two survivors.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: ALJ Marketing LLC

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.


Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.



In her first nonfiction book, novelist Grande (Dancing with Butterflies, 2009, etc.) delves into her family’s cycle of separation and reunification.

Raised in poverty so severe that spaghetti reminded her of the tapeworms endemic to children in her Mexican hometown, the author is her family’s only college graduate and writer, whose honors include an American Book Award and International Latino Book Award. Though she was too young to remember her father when he entered the United States illegally seeking money to improve life for his family, she idolized him from afar. However, she also blamed him for taking away her mother after he sent for her when the author was not yet 5 years old. Though she emulated her sister, she ultimately answered to herself, and both siblings constantly sought affirmation of their parents’ love, whether they were present or not. When one caused disappointment, the siblings focused their hopes on the other. These contradictions prove to be the narrator’s hallmarks, as she consistently displays a fierce willingness to ask tough questions, accept startling answers, and candidly render emotional and physical violence. Even as a girl, Grande understood the redemptive power of language to define—in the U.S., her name’s literal translation, “big queen,” led to ridicule from other children—and to complicate. In spelling class, when a teacher used the sentence “my mamá loves me” (mi mamá me ama), Grande decided to “rearrange the words so that they formed a question: ¿Me ama mi mamá? Does my mama love me?”

A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6177-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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