A perceptive, descriptive portrait of Australia in the 1960s and of the immigrant experience in general.

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VERTREK

In this memoir of vertrek, the Dutch word for leaving, first-time author Paulusse recounts his family’s immigration to Australia from the Netherlands in the early 1960s.

Paulusse was baffled by his parents’ decision to move to Australia. After a five-week ocean voyage, the family landed in Melbourne to start a new life but faced difficulties. Struggling to find employment, Paulusse’s father, Piet, worked at disappointing jobs and launched a boat-building business that failed, forcing Paulusse to augment the family income. He emptied the neighbors’ garbage (and sold the porn magazines he found), worked at a butter factory at 13 after lying about his age, and performed menial jobs to help the family manage. Paulusse paints cameos of the people he and his family met, comparing his new Australian acquaintances with his Dutch family and friends, whom the Australians jocularly called “clog wogs.” Australians seemed willing to give anyone, including immigrants, a “fair go” and “mateship,” while the Dutch come across as earnest, hardworking, and frugal but not without humor. Discovering hair in his food at the Australian assimilation camp where the family first stayed, for instance, Paulusse’s father joked that the dandruff might add flavor to the meal. This resilience, along with determination and persistence, allowed the family to survive if not always thrive. Paulusse repeats himself occasionally and makes some spelling mistakes, e.g. “Manderin” and “plagerized.” Sometimes he doesn’t explain enough—for instance, about his own curious birth with two stomachs or what might have caused his young sister’s unexpected death. But the book’s strengths outweigh its weaknesses. It’s loaded with perceptive portraits of the Australians and Dutch Paulusse knew and descriptions of his family’s struggles. The book also provides an ambivalent take on assimilation and the so-called advances of modern life compared with “a quieter, more stable time.” Overall, these memorable anecdotes are told with empathy and laced with wit and warmth.

A perceptive, descriptive portrait of Australia in the 1960s and of the immigrant experience in general.

Pub Date: March 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1499031751

Page Count: 316

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2015

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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