A well-wrought, inspiring tale of “change and justice” in a part of the world where they are often sorely lacking.

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LOVE, LOSS, AND HOPE IN AN AFRICAN SLUM

An impassioned tale of how an unusual Kenyan NGO became globally galvanized by the romance between its embattled Nairobi director and a resolute young Wesleyan University student.

Hailing from the Kibera slums and facing enormous obstacles, Odede managed to start the Shining Hope for Communities program, offering support to a community in crisis. Posner, an American student from a well-off Denver family, in turn became the COO of the program. The two alternate telling this uplifting and courageous story of how they met and fell in love. Odede is truly a survivor of the worst kind of marginalization of the invisible poor in the Kibera slum (“survival was improbable”). Born to an unmarried teenage woman (a breech birth, no less, one of the many miracles in his life), Odede eventually ran away from home at age 10 after being unable to stand any more abuse at the hands of his stepfather. Years of street life, theft, and drugs drove him to seek help from the white missionaries, and he eventually received the funds for an education. Posner arrived at the SHOFCO office for a Wesleyan internship in 2007, determined to brave the appalling living conditions of the slum (open sewers, rats and other vermin, scant water, complete lack of privacy) and cohabitate with Odede in disarming chastity. The authors tell a moving love story that crosses a chasm of different cultural beliefs and expectations, culminating in Odede’s refuge at Wesleyan with a full scholarship. He had to flee his country after nearly being murdered by ethnic-driven gang violence following the rigged election of President Mwai Kibaki. Aside from the authors’ developing romance, what is so impressive is Odede’s commitment to the empowerment of young women after seeing so many rapes, violence, and indignities inflicted on the women in his own family.

A well-wrought, inspiring tale of “change and justice” in a part of the world where they are often sorely lacking.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-229285-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 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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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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