A memoir that, despite a few flaws, offers an engaging slice of 20th-century American life.

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TWO JOURNEYS TO ONE WONDROUS LIFE

A debut author reflects on different periods of his life, from being a closeted Navy man during World War II to being an out-and-proud businessman in the 1970s.

Klein was born to a family of “Volga Germans” in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1924. Growing up, he felt that he was clearly different from other boys, and he was drawn to what were considered “feminine” tasks, such as cooking; later, he found that he was attracted to other men. However, he hid this part of himself away. After high school, toward the end of WWII, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he learned quickly that being openly gay would hinder his career. He also felt that he “had to prove that I was a ‘man’ and could do things better than anyone else.” To that end, he engaged in sexual activity with women at every chance. Klein survived boot camp (and several harrowing plane landings), and his military career would take him from Texas to Alaska and elsewhere before he was discharged and wound up in Manhattan. There, in 1954, he flirted with the gay culture of Broadway and downtown while buckling down to become a journalist for Air Force Magazine. At this point, Klein fully embraced the fact that he was gay. During this time, he also met eccentric characters, such as New Orleanian Howard Lane, who would become a dear friend. A move to California in the early 1970s would lead him to become a restaurant owner and the director of a ski association. The memoir’s later chapters deliver some of the most memorable imagery, such as a scene of Lane drunkenly dancing while wearing a tutu. However, the timeline of Klein’s life starts to become a bit blurry—his initial introduction into gay life in New York, for example, is glossed over, and some chapters would have benefited from a more careful edit to excise some repetition. However, these faults are easy to forgive, as Klein proves to be a great storyteller; his voice feels young and energetic as he cracks jokes and tells of encounters with celebrities, such as Marlon Brando and Joel Grey. Indeed, it’s impossible to not get swept up in his memorable tales.

A memoir that, despite a few flaws, offers an engaging slice of 20th-century American life.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5320-3741-2

Page Count: 202

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: June 15, 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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  • 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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