Somewhat novel in its concerns, less surprising in its execution.




Life of a bad-girl tattoo artist with retrograde tendencies, set in a rapidly changing West.

“Growing up western,” writes Wyoming native Griffin in her debut memoir, “I bought into the romantic myth of tattoos as a mark of the outlaw.” She reacted to her sensible parents’ urgings of education and career by apprenticing herself to Slade, a rough-edged tattooist whose shop stood out amid Laramie’s early-’90s gentrification. Griffin brought a discerning artistic eye to custom tattoo work and to the ordinary designs, known as “flash,” that most customers preferred. In addition to providing a livelihood, tattooing allowed her entree to a seemingly endangered underworld of muscle-car fanatics, embittered ex-ranchers, drug dealers, and other rebellious blue-collar types. Griffin developed acute awareness of tattoo sociology, and she shrewdly comments on the mix of exhibitionism and desire for community that lured both dilettantes and the hardcore “full sleeved” into her shop. Her facile prose captures the harsh yet intriguing Wyoming landscape, and she is perceptive to the point of exhaustion on tattooing’s history, methods, and ramifications. Otherwise, this is mostly a story of men and miles: a brief marriage to an uptight lawyer, the platonic relationship with Slade, and affairs with macho criminal types who meet bad ends (including one who impregnates, batters, and stalks her) in an ongoing narrative of road trips, substance abuse, steamy/coy sex scenes, and ritualized nipple piercing. Elsewhere, Griffin’s observations seem filtered through a tiresome culture-war prism that divides humanity into scorned poseurs (college students, dude-ranch guests, late-blooming yuppies, “candy-assed middle-class punks”) and avatars of authenticity (bikers, cowboys, felons, tattoo obsessives), whom Griffin unabashedly worships. Since her condescension toward the “straight” people who commodified tattoos and gentrified Laramie is matched by her dizzy embrace of brutal, primitive men, her story develops a nagging undertone of dissonant hypocrisy.

Somewhat novel in its concerns, less surprising in its execution.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-15-100884-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2003

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Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.


Based on eight years of reporting and thousands of hours of interaction, a journalist chronicles the inner worlds of three women’s erotic desires.

In her dramatic debut about “what longing in America looks like,” Taddeo, who has contributed to Esquire, Elle, and other publications, follows the sex lives of three American women. On the surface, each woman’s story could be a soap opera. There’s Maggie, a teenager engaged in a secret relationship with her high school teacher; Lina, a housewife consumed by a torrid affair with an old flame; and Sloane, a wealthy restaurateur encouraged by her husband to sleep with other people while he watches. Instead of sensationalizing, the author illuminates Maggie’s, Lina’s, and Sloane’s erotic experiences in the context of their human complexities and personal histories, revealing deeper wounds and emotional yearnings. Lina’s infidelity was driven by a decade of her husband’s romantic and sexual refusal despite marriage counseling and Lina's pleading. Sloane’s Fifty Shades of Grey–like lifestyle seems far less exotic when readers learn that she has felt pressured to perform for her husband's pleasure. Taddeo’s coverage is at its most nuanced when she chronicles Maggie’s decision to go to the authorities a few years after her traumatic tryst. Recounting the subsequent trial against Maggie’s abuser, the author honors the triumph of Maggie’s courageous vulnerability as well as the devastating ramifications of her community’s disbelief. Unfortunately, this book on “female desire” conspicuously omits any meaningful discussion of social identities beyond gender and class; only in the epilogue does Taddeo mention race and its impacts on women's experiences with sex and longing. Such oversight brings a palpable white gaze to the narrative. Compounded by the author’s occasionally lackluster prose, the book’s flaws compete with its meaningful contribution to #MeToo–era reporting.

Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4229-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.


Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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