A straightforward account of a life focused on karate.

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MY LIFE IN THE ART OF SHORIN RYU MATSUBAYASHI RYU KARATE

A debut memoir recounts a man’s ascent through the ranks of karate, from white belt to Hall of Fame black belt. 

Born and raised in Miami, the author initially became interested in karate through the films of Bruce Lee. In the early 1980s, after being assaulted by some older boys, the 14-year-old Ferguson decided to learn self-defense and chose karate. Though initially shy and reserved, he grew more confident in his classes, and he began to rise in the ranks, earning his third belt—the green belt—within nine months. The author clearly describes the various tests he had to complete to gain his belts as well as the sense of community that was fostered by his teachers, Hanshi Moises and Sensei Benny Colon. They not only brought their students to compete in tournaments, but also regularly treated them to camping trips or cookouts. Besides acquiring considerable physical skills, Ferguson writes that he also gained another family. After four years of training, he received his black belt, becoming the first to ever reach that rank under Moises and Colon. Ferguson then left Miami after eight years of training, and no matter where he moved—first to Savannah, Georgia; then Jacksonville; and finally back to Miami—he remained involved in the karate community and even opened his own dojo in Savannah. In 2017, after nearly 40 years in the discipline, he was enshrined into the United States Black Belt Hall of Fame. In his book, which features black-and-white photographs of the author and other karate practitioners, Ferguson’s prose is very matter-of-fact and rarely reflective. While his achievements are impressive, readers are not always given much insight into what they meant to the author at the time, and what they signify to him now. The writing is most engaging when Ferguson discusses his mentors and the teachers who have helped him along the way; the compelling passages are filled with reverence and love for this circle. But the author occasionally gets bogged down in terminology and minutiae that will likely leave karate neophytes confused, and the sections about his teaching style lack specific examples.

A straightforward account of a life focused on karate.

Pub Date: March 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5043-9481-9

Page Count: 108

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2018

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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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