A well-written and reassuring set of true stories about autism.

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UNITED IN AUTISM

FINDING STRENGTH INSIDE THE SPECTRUM

This debut collection of personal essays examines the experience of parenting an autistic child.

Hornok has an autistic daughter and is on the board of the National Autism Association of North Texas. “Autism can be a lonely journey,” she writes, but knowing that other families have been through the same thing can be comforting. To that end, she interviewed 30 parents of children with autism, based everywhere from Missouri to Singapore. On the basis of those interviews, she has rendered their accounts as intimate, first-person narratives. (One of the essays, about Kirk Smith’s son JJ, includes excerpts from Smith’s 2013 memoir, Rice Krispies with Ketchup.) Each piece is concise, thought-provoking, and illustrated with at least one black-and-white family photograph. The children range from highly functional to virtually nonverbal, though there are some similarities in their progress. A recurring pattern in the parents’ recollections is that their children seemed to develop normally until the age of about 1 1/2, at which point there was a regression in motion and language, and repetitive behaviors began. A common theme in this vibrant collection—which features a foreword by Temple Grandin—is meticulous planning to avoid meltdowns. But these parents are honest about their nightmare moments. A Swedish mother and her son were asked to leave a plane when he wouldn’t stop screaming; an Idaho woman had to call the police when her son started hitting her. There were also drowning scares and a threat of shock therapy. The disparity in treatment options—not just between countries, but between U.S. states—is eye-opening. Most of the parents featured have taken matters into their own hands, starting charitable organizations or support groups to plug the gaps in government services. For instance, an Ethiopian mother built a school for kids with autism so parents wouldn’t leave them tied to beds, and a Boston mother lobbied states to require insurance companies to cover autism treatment. A Russian father concludes, “Kids with autism are given to us for a reason: they are our greatest teachers.” This book offers both lessons and hope.

A well-written and reassuring set of true stories about autism.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61254-273-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Brown Books Publishing Group

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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

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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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