An unsettling, occasionally poignant confessional from an award-winning poet.



Debut memoir from a veteran poet and professor of English at Vanderbilt.

“Rummaging about in the unconscious…can be downright terrifying,” writes Daniels early on in this deeply personal plunge into psychoanalysis and the art of poetry. The author moves back and forth between prose and poetry, with Emily Dickinson as her “literary companion throughout.” Wracked by a “direly intractable midlife depression,” she embarked on therapy: For four days per week over the course of nearly three years, Daniels visited Ama, a taciturn, middle-aged novice psychoanalyst. For the first few months, it didn’t go well; there was mostly silence, and she hated Ama’s small, ugly office. Daniels came to her the way “a muddled writer will seek out an editor,” hoping she could find the “Words” to repair a broken “Sentence.” Ama’s laughter—chortles, chuckles, snickers—tortured the author, and she began “falling into something that felt like a lyric poem’s black hole of atemporality.” Eventually, Daniels asked Ama to read some of her poetry books, but she refused. Turning the tables, she wondered if Ama wanted to write poetry. Was Daniels “writing” a “text” with Ama? In a “previous life,” had she “become the ghost lover of Ama?” After two years, the author fully believed that she and her analyst weren’t “connecting warmly.” Yet it “had become impossible to ignore that there was Something Inside Me that needed Ama desperately.” Reaching out to Dickinson for support, she also began to realize that her analysis was “full of dreams of Ama.” Describing to an unimpressed Ama a violent home invasion only left Daniels with an “extreme psychic unrest that my psychoanalysis unleashed in me.” She met briefly with a “Famous Analyst” who said her “analysis might be ‘imploding.’ ” The narrative, sometimes disjointed and loaded with heavy introspection, may tire some readers by the end, but Daniels is a keen observer of visceral moments and powerful emotions.

An unsettling, occasionally poignant confessional from an award-winning poet.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-952271-38-0

Page Count: 216

Publisher: West Virginia Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.


The creator of the hit internet series Humans of New York takes it global, chasing down a panoply of interesting stories.

In 1955, Edward Steichen staged a show called “The Family of Man,” a gathering of photographs that emphasized the commonality of humankind. Stanton’s project seemingly has much the same ambition. “You’ve created this magic little corner of the Web where people feel safe sharing their stories—without being ridiculed, or bullied, or judged,” he writes. “These stories are only honestly shared because they have a long history of being warmly received.” The ask is the hard part: approaching a total stranger and asking him or her to tell their stories. And what stories they are. A young Frenchwoman, tearful, recounts being able to see things from the spirit world that no one else can see. “And it’s been a very lonely existence since then,” she says. A sensible teenager in St. Petersburg, Russia, relates that her friends are trying to be grown-up, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, whereas she wants to remain a child close to her parents: “I’d like these times to last as long as possible.” A few stories are obnoxious, as with a Dutch incel who has converted himself into a pickup artist and outright cad: “Of course it’s manipulation, but why should I care? I’ve been manipulated so many times in my life.” A great many stories, some going for several pages but most taking up just a paragraph or two, are regretful, speaking to dashed dreams and roads not taken. A surprising number recount mental illness, depression, and addiction; “I’d give anything to have a tribe,” says a beleaguered mother in Barcelona. Some are hopeful, though, such as that of an Iranian woman: “I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.”

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11429-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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A refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon.

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One of Hollywood’s biggest stars delivers a memoir of success won through endless, relentless work and self-reckoning.

“My imagination is my gift, and when it merges with my work ethic, I can make money rain from the heavens.” So writes Smith, whose imagination is indeed a thing of wonder—a means of coping with fear, an abusive father with the heart of a drill instructor, and all manner of inner yearnings. The author’s imagination took him from a job bagging ice in Philadelphia to initial success as a partner in the Grammy-winning rap act DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Smith was propelled into stardom thanks to the ministrations of Quincy Jones, who arranged an audition in the middle of his own birthday party, bellowing “No paralysis through analysis!” when Smith begged for time to prepare. The mantra—which Jones intoned 50-odd times during the two hours it took for the Hollywood suits to draw up a contract for the hit comedy series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air—is telling, for hidden within this memoir lies a powerful self-help book. For Smith, all of life is a challenge in which one’s feelings are largely immaterial. “I watched my father’s negative emotions seize control of his ample intellect and cause him over and over again to destroy beautiful parts of our family,” he writes, good reason for him to sublimate negativity in the drive to get what he wanted—money, at first, and lots of it, which got him in trouble with the IRS in the early 1990s. Smith, having developed a self-image that cast him as a coward, opines that one’s best life is lived by facing up to the things that hold us back. “I’ve been making a conscious effort to attack all the things that I’m scared of,” he writes, adding, “And this is scary.” It’s a good lesson for any aspiring creative to ponder—though it helps to have Smith’s abundant talent, too.

A refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984877-92-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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