An honest, nuanced look at what it means to carry on after a traumatic event.

WHAT A BODY REMEMBERS

A MEMOIR OF SEXUAL ASSAULT AND ITS AFTERMATH

One woman’s account of a harrowing attack in Berkeley, California, and its aftermath.

In 1984, Stefano (The Secret Games of Words, 2015) was an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley. She had no luck joining a sorority, although she soon found an intriguing vocation: campus police aide, which involved “patrolling campus and surrounding neighborhoods, calling in suspicious activity.” She saw some unusual things in her time on the job, such as when she directed traffic (including stoned attendees on foot) at a Grateful Dead concert. One night, after leaving work, she was walking home alone and about to enter her apartment when she was threatened by a man with a knife. The attacker pinned her from behind, put his hand over her mouth, and pressed himself against her; he brought the knife up to her throat, but she managed to scream, and he fled. Although the author wasn’t physically injured, the book ably examines the many aftereffects of such an ordeal. She writes of a useless on-campus counseling session with a graduate student and of an unfriendly court system. Later in life, the author became a defense attorney and found herself arguing in court on behalf of people who were accused of crimes not unlike her attacker’s and grilling victims not unlike herself. The book clearly illustrates how life continues after one’s trauma and how strange, unexpected things can happen, as when the author saw her attacker in a grocery store later the same summer; stunned, she thought, “Attackers have to eat too.” The book loses some of its focus in later chapters; for example, regarding a return visit to Berkeley in 2014, she mentions some rather obvious ways that the city had changed (back in 1984, she notes, “No one blogged….There were no paninis, just sandwiches”). Still, later portions yield some potent material. What happened to the man with the knife? The answer, provided here, is chilling.

An honest, nuanced look at what it means to carry on after a traumatic event.    

Pub Date: June 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-947856-95-0

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Rare Bird Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2020

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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 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 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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