SHOOTING OUT THE LIGHTS

A MEMOIR

A captivating family account that delivers compelling, acutely observant writing.

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A wife comes to terms with her husband’s troubled past in this memoir.

“You were a preservationist, and I needed preserving,” joked Vernon, Fairley’s future husband, reflecting on his motivation for asking her out on a date. When they met, Vern, who was 32 years the author’s senior, was struggling to cope with the tragic death of his 14-year-old son, Ben, who was shot accidentally while playing with a revolver. Fairley fell in love with Vern’s “quirkiness”; they married, and, three months later, on her 25th birthday, the author discovered that she was pregnant. Soon after, Vern announced that the son of a recently deceased friend would be coming to stay with them temporarily. Taking care of 11-year-old Stanislaus was not what Fairley had expected during pregnancy. The situation became yet more fractious when Stanislaus was found to be a disturbed child, setting his bed afire and stabbing the family dog. With Vern’s health in decline, the stress of caring for Stanislaus forced the couple to reassess their marriage. The author strives to understand her husband’s inner struggles and, in doing so, unpacks some startling “sealed memories.” Fairley’s memoir is part mystery, leaving the author (and the audience) to guess at Vern’s true motives for taking in Stanislaus. Fairley’s slow reveal makes for absorbing reading. Throughout the volume, she maps her shifting emotions with a candid clarity: “I felt myself slump. In that moment, I realized another reason I had resisted Stan’s presence so fiercely: time was a commodity in my relationship with Vern.” The author has an occasional tendency to share extraneous information. Describing their dog, Chippie, she notes: “He’d developed a severe anal sac problem and would scoot along the floor, leaving oily anal juice on everything.” Fairley’s scrupulous attention to detail is put to better use when capturing the ambience of small-town Ohio: “I loved the screened-in porch, the way it overlooked the old footbridge with the cast-iron street lamp….The old furnace pumped out heat that smelled of kerosene in the winter.” At its best, the author’s writing is evocative, and her story is both unique and intriguing. Despite the sporadic digressions, this is a book that many readers will find difficult to put down.

A captivating family account that delivers compelling, acutely observant writing.

Pub Date: July 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64742-067-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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  • New York Times Bestseller

TANQUERAY

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

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LOVE, PAMELA

A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.

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The iconic model tells the story of her eventful life.

According to the acknowledgments, this memoir started as "a fifty-page poem and then grew into hundreds of pages of…more poetry." Readers will be glad that Anderson eventually turned to writing prose, since the well-told anecdotes and memorable character sketches are what make it a page-turner. The poetry (more accurately described as italicized notes-to-self with line breaks) remains strewn liberally through the pages, often summarizing the takeaway or the emotional impact of the events described: "I was / and still am / an exceptionally / easy target. / And, / I'm proud of that." This way of expressing herself is part of who she is, formed partly by her passion for Anaïs Nin and other writers; she is a serious maven of literature and the arts. The narrative gets off to a good start with Anderson’s nostalgic memories of her childhood in coastal Vancouver, raised by very young, very wild, and not very competent parents. Here and throughout the book, the author displays a remarkable lack of anger. She has faced abuse and mistreatment of many kinds over the decades, but she touches on the most appalling passages lightly—though not so lightly you don't feel the torment of the media attention on the events leading up to her divorce from Tommy Lee. Her trip to the pages of Playboy, which involved an escape from a violent fiance and sneaking across the border, is one of many jaw-dropping stories. In one interesting passage, Julian Assange's mother counsels Anderson to desexualize her image in order to be taken more seriously as an activist. She decided that “it was too late to turn back now”—that sexy is an inalienable part of who she is. Throughout her account of this kooky, messed-up, enviable, and often thrilling life, her humility (her sons "are true miracles, considering the gene pool") never fails her.

A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2023

ISBN: 9780063226562

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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