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PENIS POLITICS

A MEMOIR OF WOMEN, MEN AND POWER

A timely, engaging political account about the consequences of saying nothing and speaking up.

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A woman describes a career of navigating predatory men in this debut political memoir.

Hinton knows politics. After covering it as a newspaper reporter, she served as a press secretary in Washington, D.C., and New York City for the likes of Andrew Cuomo and Bill de Blasio. The author is all too familiar with what she terms “penis politics,” the tendency of men in authority to use their gender as a means of dominating the women around them. “In politics,” she writes, “there’s a toxic brew of ego, entitlement, power, testosterone, and a ‘bro culture’ that is especially difficult for women to navigate.” Hinton recounts that she got her first taste of such behavior before she ever left her hometown of Soso, Mississippi, where one of her high school's basketball coaches assaulted one of her teammates. The author and her friends said nothing, a decision that would resound throughout her life whenever other men, from novelist William Styron to Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, attempted to use their stature to intimidate Hinton. This memoir is a reckoning of such moments, from the author’s teenage years racing passing trains to get faster for basketball to her college years studying journalism and political science at Ole Miss. After a brief career as a journalist, she got to Washington, D.C., by working for the first Black congressman elected from Mississippi since Reconstruction, Mike Espy. Her time as press secretary for Cuomo, when he was assistant secretary of Housing and Urban Development, was a heady mix of work she believed in—such as trying to help Black churches rebuild following arsons in her home state—and her boss’s lewd jokes and bullying behavior. What’s more, while working for de Blasio during his tenure as New York City mayor, Hinton found herself in the middle of an awkward feud between her old boss—now the governor of New York—and her new one.

Hinton’s prose is sharp and incisive. She is adept at setting a scene and bringing people to life on the page. She captures the aggressive culture of American politics, as here, in one incident from the Cuomo–de Blasio feud: “Either Andrew or someone on the Cuomo team offered grudging respect for the approach in a Politico article: ‘There’s a clear belief that Karen helped de Blasio grow a pair,’ said one source. I could play penis politics, too, from time to time.” The book will perhaps be of greatest interest for the author’s experiences with Cuomo, which generally fit with the portrait of him that has emerged over the past year. According to Hinton, when she began the process of adopting her daughter, Cuomo sidelined her career at HUD. The author’s experiences working for Black candidates in Mississippi—particularly in helping them improve their images with White voters—are also captivating windows into a still-relevant area of American politics. Throughout the memoir, Hinton returns to the story of her friend who was assaulted by a coach and the shape that girl’s life took afterward, using it as a way to discuss the long-lasting consequences that predatory men with power can have on the lives of the women around them.

A timely, engaging political account about the consequences of saying nothing and speaking up.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73621-169-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Sartoris Literary Group

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2021

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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TANQUERAY

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

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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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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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