LEAVING

HOW I SET MYSELF FREE FROM AN ABUSIVE MARRIAGE

A gripping story of one woman’s self-emancipation from marital despotism.

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In this memoir, Bhaskar recollects her escape from an abusive marriage.

Bhaskar grew up in New Delhi enchanted by the example of her parents’ marriage, one characterized by not just love, but also a sense of equality and mutual respect. She envisioned herself married to someone sophisticated and modern as well as educated and “emotionally balanced.” As a result, once she married Vijay in 1980—she was in her early 20s at the time—she was unprepared for the kind of life she was compelled to lead. Almost immediately, he revealed himself as a man of bottomless immoderation—he was an alleged incorrigible drunk inclined to bouts of verbal assault and physical violence. She left him multiple times but repeatedly returned after his effusive apologies and promises to reform. However, those promises always turned out to be empty, and his physical abuse continued even after she bore three children, a predicament chillingly described by the author. She considered divorce, but that option was all but impossible given the legal and cultural climate in India, which was heavily patriarchal: “This stark truth came as a jolt. Divorce at the age of twenty-four meant giving up my daughter, as I would be expected to remarry. If I didn’t, I’d risk harassment of various kinds, including sexual in nature, at all levels of society, not only by men but also by women.”

Bhaskar movingly recounts her struggle to protect herself and her children from what she describes as the frightening volatility of her husband and her quest to finally achieve some measure of independence from him, financially and otherwise. She chronicles her longing for some kind of spiritual solace in the wake of the divorce she finally secured and articulates a worldview that is unfortunately communicated in the vague language of New Age spirituality: “Belief in self + belief in the Universe × belief in spirituality = nirvana.” Bhaskar’s story is cinematically dramatic—the danger she faced on a daily basis is astonishing, and her perseverance to overcome it is admirable. She intelligently conveys how a thoughtful, independent woman could become trapped in such a grim cycle of debasement and duped multiple times by the allure of false hope. Moreover, she gives a rigorous account of the patriarchal dominance that typifies Indian society, one that made her abuse at the hands of her husband not only legally possible, but also morally permissible. Last but not least, she illuminates some of the pitfalls of arranged marriages so prevalent in India, where spouses might not be properly vetted even by the most lovingly protective and diligent of parents. Bhaskar’s memoir culminates in a discussion of her search for spiritual peace. Unfortunately, this is the weakest part of the book, as her language lapses into hazy but blandly familiar territory: “I am breathing but not alive. The euphoric feeling is so soothing that I remain in bliss and harmony for hours. This is my identity, my being. This is who I am, in touch with my soul for these brief moments, in a pure state of surrender.” Nonetheless, despite such minor flaws, this is still a captivating tale poignantly related.

A gripping story of one woman’s self-emancipation from marital despotism.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 9781647424756

Page Count: 272

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2023

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  • New York Times Bestseller

TANQUERAY

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

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  • 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

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

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LOVE, PAMELA

A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

The iconic model tells the story of her eventful life.

According to the acknowledgments, this memoir started as "a fifty-page poem and then grew into hundreds of pages of…more poetry." Readers will be glad that Anderson eventually turned to writing prose, since the well-told anecdotes and memorable character sketches are what make it a page-turner. The poetry (more accurately described as italicized notes-to-self with line breaks) remains strewn liberally through the pages, often summarizing the takeaway or the emotional impact of the events described: "I was / and still am / an exceptionally / easy target. / And, / I'm proud of that." This way of expressing herself is part of who she is, formed partly by her passion for Anaïs Nin and other writers; she is a serious maven of literature and the arts. The narrative gets off to a good start with Anderson’s nostalgic memories of her childhood in coastal Vancouver, raised by very young, very wild, and not very competent parents. Here and throughout the book, the author displays a remarkable lack of anger. She has faced abuse and mistreatment of many kinds over the decades, but she touches on the most appalling passages lightly—though not so lightly you don't feel the torment of the media attention on the events leading up to her divorce from Tommy Lee. Her trip to the pages of Playboy, which involved an escape from a violent fiance and sneaking across the border, is one of many jaw-dropping stories. In one interesting passage, Julian Assange's mother counsels Anderson to desexualize her image in order to be taken more seriously as an activist. She decided that “it was too late to turn back now”—that sexy is an inalienable part of who she is. Throughout her account of this kooky, messed-up, enviable, and often thrilling life, her humility (her sons "are true miracles, considering the gene pool") never fails her.

A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2023

ISBN: 9780063226562

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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