by Kalman Samuels ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 15, 2020
An inspiring and poignant, if not always riveting, account of love and healing.
An Israeli couple becomes inspired by their experiences with their son to dedicate their lives to educating other children with disabilities in this debut memoir.
Samuels was born and raised in Vancouver (his Canadian bona fides include getting The Guess Who to play at his high school during his tenure as student council president) and first visited Israel as a college student. He loved the country so much that—against the wishes of his secular family—he decided to move there, join a Hasidic community, and switch his educational course to Jewish studies. At the age of 21, a matchmaker introduced him to Malki, who would become his wife. The couple soon began to raise a family, but one day they noticed that their second child, Shalom Yosef or “Yossi,” was ill. As a result of a faulty vaccination, Yossi’s eyes became glassy and he began to suffer from convulsions and hyperactivity. Samuels and his wife ultimately took Yossi to New York to receive a full diagnosis: Their son was permanently blind and partially deaf. They had great difficulty finding a school for Yossi, as most were equipped to educate a blind student but not a partly deaf one or vice versa. Back in Tel Aviv, they finally found an instructor who was prepared to teach Yossi sign language by signing words into his palm, including shulhan (table): “We were all sobbing as Shoshana began to demonstrate on the palms of Yossi’s sister and brothers how to spell shulhan, and how to sign the other letters. She told them: ‘You, too, are going to learn the letters, and you’ll at last be able speak to your brother.’ ” Malki was so inspired by the treatment that she asked Samuels to help her make it available to other families in need. Their vision was a center with after-school therapy and support for children with disabilities. The result was Shalva—the name is the Hebrew word for serenity—though the difficulties in bringing such a place into being proved to be greater than either Samuels or Malki could have imagined.
Samuels’ story is a remarkable one, offering an immersive portrait of both Israel and the state of disability care in the 1970s and ’80s. The author’s prose is competent but a bit dry. For every heartwarming (or heartbreaking) moment, there are many more dedicated to the logistics of starting and running a nonprofit: “Inroads had been made, but the bills kept piling up. Within six months, I was taking another week off from Binational for another visit to New York, but this time I was better prepared. On a shoestring budget I created a short but moving video, which included testimonials from parents of Shalva children.” The most touching sections are the ones that deal directly with Yossi, whom the author renders with great warmth and subtlety. Also compelling is the extent to which Samuels was driven by his own faith while at the same time recognizing the limits of traditional religion’s ability to educate disabled children. Those interested in the history and development of disability care will be particularly moved by the Samuelses’ story.An inspiring and poignant, if not always riveting, account of love and healing.
Pub Date: May 15, 2020
Page Count: 368
Publisher: Toby Press
Review Posted Online: April 25, 2020
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
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
Page Count: 192
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022
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by Britney Spears ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 24, 2023
Spears’ vulnerability shines through as she describes her painful journey from vulnerable girl to empowered woman.
A heartfelt memoir from the pop superstar.
Spears grew up with an alcoholic father, an exacting mother, and a fear of disappointing them both. She also displayed a natural talent for singing and dancing and a strong work ethic. Spears is grateful for the adult professionals who helped her get her start, but the same can’t be said of her peers. When she met Justin Timberlake, also a Mouseketeer on the Disney Channel’s updated Mickey Mouse Club, the two formed an instant bond. Spears describes her teenage feelings for Timberlake as “so in love with him it was pathetic,” and she’s clearly angry about the rumors and breakup that followed. This tumultuous period haunted her for years. Out of many candidates for villains of the book, Timberlake included, perhaps the worst are the careless journalists of the late 1990s and early 2000s, who indulged Timberlake while vilifying Spears. The cycle repeated for years, taking its toll on her mental health. Spears gave birth to sons Sean Preston and Jayden James within two years, and she describes the difficulties they all faced living in the spotlight. The author writes passionately about how custody of her boys and visits with them were held over her head, and she recounts how they were used to coerce her to make decisions that weren’t always in her best interest. As many readers know, conservancy followed, and for 13 years, she toured, held a residency in Las Vegas, and performed—all while supposedly unable to take care of herself, an irony not lost on her. Overall, the book is cathartic, though readers who followed her 2021 trial won’t find many revelations, and many of the other newsworthy items have been widely covered in the run-up to the book’s release.Spears’ vulnerability shines through as she describes her painful journey from vulnerable girl to empowered woman.
Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2023
Page Count: 288
Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023
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