A superb portrait that elevates Lady Bird’s stature as one of the most accomplished first ladies of the 20th century.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT

A welcome revisionist study of Lady Bird Johnson’s roles and accomplishments within her husband’s administration. In the past 50 years, there have been several notable biographies of LBJ, yet only recently has first lady Claudia Alta "Lady Bird” Johnson (1912-2007) received meaningful attention for her influential role. Sweig, a nonresident senior research fellow at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, casts a wider lens around Lady Bird’s public persona and personal life, especially the White House years. The author covers a lot of ground, from when the Johnsons were prematurely thrust into their roles following the assassination of JFK and individually struggled to gain their own distinction in the shadow of the star-powered Camelot era up through when LBJ left office after his first full term. Sweig deftly constructs a complex and admiring portrait of Lady Bird as a hardworking, intuitive, and highly intelligent political strategist who served as a vital bolstering force behind LBJ’s political ambitions. Despite his insecurities, mood swings, and health concerns, she actively sought to advance her own urgently felt causes. At the time, her environmental endeavors were superficially labeled as “beautification,” yet her aim was far more expansive. “Beneath the surface of the beautification efforts she promoted,” writes the author, “were deeper, structural dimensions to the urban crisis that connected to hous­ing, industrial pollution, race, and economic inequality.” Drawing extensively from Lady Bird’s White House diary—after transcription, 123 hours of content (a portion of the transcript became a bestseller when published by Johnson in 1970)—Sweig provides an engrossing, well-researched narrative that offers useful historical context about the prevailing issues of the day. The Johnsons’ unified efforts successfully advanced an impressive number of social reform policies, yet their accomplishments were increasingly overshadowed by the weight of the Vietnam War, which dramatically escalated during LBJ’s tenure. A superb portrait that elevates Lady Bird’s stature as one of the most accomplished first ladies of the 20th century.

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9590-9

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 6, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

TANQUERAY

A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2022

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The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

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I'M GLAD MY MOM DIED

The former iCarly star reflects on her difficult childhood.

In her debut memoir, titled after her 2020 one-woman show, singer and actor McCurdy (b. 1992) reveals the raw details of what she describes as years of emotional abuse at the hands of her demanding, emotionally unstable stage mom, Debra. Born in Los Angeles, the author, along with three older brothers, grew up in a home controlled by her mother. When McCurdy was 3, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though she initially survived, the disease’s recurrence would ultimately take her life when the author was 21. McCurdy candidly reconstructs those in-between years, showing how “my mom emotionally, mentally, and physically abused me in ways that will forever impact me.” Insistent on molding her only daughter into “Mommy’s little actress,” Debra shuffled her to auditions beginning at age 6. As she matured and starting booking acting gigs, McCurdy remained “desperate to impress Mom,” while Debra became increasingly obsessive about her daughter’s physical appearance. She tinted her daughter’s eyelashes, whitened her teeth, enforced a tightly monitored regimen of “calorie restriction,” and performed regular genital exams on her as a teenager. Eventually, the author grew understandably resentful and tried to distance herself from her mother. As a young celebrity, however, McCurdy became vulnerable to eating disorders, alcohol addiction, self-loathing, and unstable relationships. Throughout the book, she honestly portrays Debra’s cruel perfectionist personality and abusive behavior patterns, showing a woman who could get enraged by everything from crooked eyeliner to spilled milk. At the same time, McCurdy exhibits compassion for her deeply flawed mother. Late in the book, she shares a crushing secret her father revealed to her as an adult. While McCurdy didn’t emerge from her childhood unscathed, she’s managed to spin her harrowing experience into a sold-out stage act and achieve a form of catharsis that puts her mind, body, and acting career at peace.

The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982185-82-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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