A remarkably evenhanded biography of an important player in Arab history that doubles as a crucial scholarly...

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THE COMMANDER

FAWZI AL-QAWUQJI AND THE FIGHT FOR ARAB INDEPENDENCE, 1914-1948

Biography of the famous early-20th-century Arab nationalist and soldier Fawzi al-Qawuqji (1890-1977).

Parsons (History and Islamic Studies/McGill Univ.; The Druze between Palestine and Israel, 1947-49, 2000) offers a short but satisfying account of the life and military adventures of al-Qawuqji, a passionate supporter of Arab unity who played a significant role in many of the conflicts that gave rise to the modern Middle East. The author provides brief sketches of al-Qawuqji’s character, but recounting and contextualizing his eventful life is her main focus. Following al-Qawuqji from his early days soldiering for the Ottoman Empire to his role in major anti-colonial revolts in Syria, Palestine, and Iraq, Parsons conveys the epic sweep of his life and his importance to Arab history in matter-of-fact terms: “[His] life was the story of one individual, not the history of a nation. He found himself in particular places, made particular choices, and even fought particular battles, largely as a result of personal circumstances.” The author’s style is determinedly unromantic—a feature, not a flaw. The effect of her careful, analytical approach is to dismantle various myths and misinterpretations that have developed around the period. For example, in writing about the British invasion of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, Parsons notes, “of course the better-known story about Arabs in World War I is that of the pro-British Arab Revolt of 1916, helped by the British officer T.E. Lawrence. But in military terms the Arab Revolt was a sideshow.” In addition to a much-needed biography of al-Qawuqji, the author provides a history of the heyday and collapse of Arab nationalism. Especially in writing about al-Qawuqji’s leadership of the Arab Liberation Army during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Parsons is unerring in pointing to the factional rivalries and structural difficulties that impeded cooperation between the fledgling Arab states.

A remarkably evenhanded biography of an important player in Arab history that doubles as a crucial scholarly reinterpretation of the rise and fall of Arab nationalism.

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8090-6712-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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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