A sharp, innovative text.

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JUST AN ORDINARY WOMAN BREATHING

A distinguished essayist, poet, and professor reflects on a life lived in a female body.

In this memoir in essays, Wade (English/Florida International Univ.; When I Was Straight, 2014, etc.) meditates on her lifelong fascination with words, language, and the body. She opens with a piece that establishes herself as a body living in “a constellation of bodies” called a family. Wade depicts herself as a girl who loved the beauty of actresses like Grace Kelly and Marilyn Monroe but whose own body did not fit the conventional mold of feminine desirability. Like a scientist, she wrote about the imperfect bodies of those around her in journal entries that looked like “inventories” rather than personal reflections. In the second essay, the author examines the differences that sometimes made her feel like a “monster in your own closet.” An only child who took comfort in an imaginary sister/friend, Wade developed secret affections for two females: a female teacher and a camp counselor. At the same time, she writes, “I have also failed to love someone I was expected to love—my first boyfriend.” In the third and fourth essays, the author remembers adolescence as a time of growing awareness about the consequences of being female in a patriarchal society. While her parents warned her about the dangers of sex, she learned how to engage in heterosexual courting rituals that would lead to marriage and motherhood. Yet at the all-girls Catholic schools she attended that taught her to appreciate everything from religious difference (she was Protestant) to the “‘poetry [of] math,” she also learned about the power women had to be autonomous beings. In the fifth section, Wade intermingles episodes from her early life with those that tell the story of her final, joyful acceptance of the lesbianism she had suppressed with a witty series of quasi-mathematical equations and philosophical propositions. Intelligent and lyrical, the narrative mingles often comic musings on female embodiment with insightful observations about the meaning of love and self-acceptance.

A sharp, innovative text.

Pub Date: yesterday

ISBN: 978-0-8142-5567-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Mad Creek/Ohio State Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 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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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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