Ambitious, studious portraits pulled together nicely by Darman.

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LBJ AND RONALD REAGAN AT THE DAWN OF A NEW AMERICA

An intimate chronicle of the 1,000 days after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, during which there was a sea change in the American electorate.

President Lyndon B. Johnson and Ronald Reagan both enjoyed huge election landslides, the former in his 1964 re-election bid as the standard bearer of the Great Society programs and the latter leading the conservative backlash in his defeat of Pat Brown as governor of California in 1966. In this sympathetic dual character study, former Newsweek correspondent Darman focuses on these two savvy politicians, who managed to capture the prevailing public mood and convince the voters that the best was yet to come—either for the progressive cause or the less-government-is-better platform, respectively—during a time of wrenching change in American society. Despite the prevailing shock and gloom that ensued after the assassination, LBJ, the depressed vice president largely ignored by Kennedy’s administration, was galvanized by a sense of duty and legacy, becoming the “Man-in-Motion” who effected a staggering number of progressive achievements in the spirit of the dead president: civil rights legislation, poverty alleviation and education reform, Medicare and voting rights, among others. In his accomplishments during his first 100 days of office, LBJ rivaled those of FDR. Soon after, however, everything began to unravel, sowing a sense of anxiety within the country: the racial confrontation on the Selma, Alabama, Edmund Pettus Bridge; escalation of the Vietnam War; and the Watts riots. Although LBJ had crushed Barry Goldwater, the conservatives gained new impetus in Reagan’s more appealingly packaged, moderate, yet still-hard-hitting anti-government speeches. The author masterfully conveys LBJ’s agony, as well as former actor Reagan’s free-wheeling spirit: He was the “Errol Flynn of the B movies” who had aged out of his previous roles and needed a new gig as an American hero.

Ambitious, studious portraits pulled together nicely by Darman.

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6708-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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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 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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