A feel-good narrative that underscores the brutal effects of poverty at home and injustice abroad.




Unusual split memoir of the intertwined lives of a reformed drug dealer and a misfit turned Africa diplomat.

In alternating chapters, Prendergast (co-author: The Enough Moment: Fighting to End Africa’s Worst Human Rights Crimes, 2010) and Mattocks describe the bond that began many years ago, when Prendergast started an informal “Big Brother” relationship with Mattocks when he was seven years old and homeless. Prendergast depicts his own adolescence as deeply unhappy. Scarred by acne and familial estrangement, he retreated into athletics and fantasies of becoming a “do-gooder.” He’d already discovered a preoccupation with Africa, specifically the suffering which the West ignored, that would eventually lead to his life’s work, but also impulsively befriended Michael and his younger brother, James, while visiting a Washington D.C., shelter in 1983: “These boys had nothing and yet radiated with life and sunshine.” Over time, Prendergast provided a vital emotional lifeline to the Mattocks boys while trying to assuage his interest in Africa, moving from internship to lobbying on behalf of a small philanthropy, Bread for the World, and visiting the continent’s trouble spots. Eventually, the author’ss dedication to this lonely cause led him to the Clinton White House, where he was Director for African Affairs at the NSC, and to involvement with celebrities like Don Cheadle and Angelina Jolie. The chapters that capture Mattocks’ perspective are written in an unadorned, colloquial style that is nonetheless effective in capturing the forgotten realities of black urban America during the ’80s, when gun violence and crack hellishly transformed daily life in places like D.C. Mattocks’ depiction of his and James’ gradual immersion in the drug trade is chilling, and he considers himself fortunate to have escaped, but also acknowledges that Prendergast’s mentoring made a crucial difference: “Even though my dad left, we had J.P…. he cared about us in a way even my mom and my aunts didn’t know how to.”

A feel-good narrative that underscores the brutal effects of poverty at home and injustice abroad.

Pub Date: May 17, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-46484-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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


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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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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