Vivid recollections from a difficult childhood.

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CONFESSIONS OF A BAR BRAT

GROWING UP IN ROSENDALE, NEW YORK

A debut memoir, told from a child’s perspective, that focuses on life at a small-town bar.

Boggess (née Cherny) and her family lived above Reid’s Hotel & Bar in the industrial town of Rosendale, New York, in the early 1950s. Her parents both worked in the bar, where she often did her elementary school homework before going up to bed. But they didn’t just serve alcohol, the author says; they also imbibed it, which fueled increasingly bitter fights between them. Boggess loved animals, movies, and playing with neighbors “Porky” and Bobby Ann Rosenkranse. She also kept her eyes and ears open, resulting in vibrant descriptions in this memoir—of her mother putting on a girdle, for example, or her father managing to get free vacuum cleaners from salesmen. Holidays help to mark the passage of time in memorable Thanksgiving and Christmas scenes. The dialogue and inner monologues of the author, complete with period slang and cursing, are first-rate, giving every character’s personality its own flavor. For instance, Boggess effectively captures her own 7-year-old reluctance to attend mass on Easter: “Oh, no. Here goes Father Mulry with the freakin’ frankincense.” The carefree innocence of these early childhood reminiscences changes, however, when the author reveals that she was repeatedly sexually abused by an unnamed bar patron, who would enter her unlocked apartment, where she was alone, at night. The trauma caused her to lose sleep and struggle at school, she says; then, one night, the man came into the apartment when Bobby Ann was sleeping over. Bobby Ann informed her own mother of the terrible incident; the author’s father then made sure that the apartment was locked at night, which put a stop to the assaults—though not to the traumatic memories. Although the book is overlong, the ending, in 1955, still feels sudden, and an epilogue gives minimal detail about the author’s later life. The author also occasionally jarringly switches between past and present tense. However, the use of a child’s point of view is convincing, and the quantity—and quality—of the memories here are impressive.

Vivid recollections from a difficult childhood.

Pub Date: May 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-944037-67-3

Page Count: 424

Publisher: Epigraph Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2018

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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