Worth reading not for its revelations about famous names, but for the author’s ability to trace her journey through the many...

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SWANS AND PISTOLS

MODELING, MOTHERHOOD, AND MAKING IT IN THE ME DECADE

A diverting traipse through the world of fashion and film also reveals the struggles of a modern working woman.

Born in Oakland, former model Bing (A Wrongful Death: One Child’s Fatal Encounter with Public Health and Private Greed, 1997, etc.) grew up privileged in most ways, attending boarding school and then embarking on a successful modeling career in New York and Los Angeles. She spends a large part of the book discussing her friendships and acquaintances with big names like Mickey Cohen (the famous West Coast gangster), David Merrick (the Tony Award–winning theater producer) and Edward Ruscha (the successful pop artist). Though it’s entertaining to read about Cher’s baby shower, her brush with Warren Beatty at the Troubadour or her close friendship with Cass Elliot, this aspect of the book rings somewhat hollow, as though she is telling her audience what she thinks they want to hear from a famous model. Amid the name-dropping and mentions of casual drug use, however, there are profound, poignant moments as well, such as her discussion of her close-knit yet unconventional family; her open fascination with the lives of street kids and gangsters, which helped inspire her writing career; and her heart-wrenching chronicle of her once-vibrant and stylish mother’s decline into sweatsuit-wearing self-starvation. In these recollections, the author’s writing finds a steady rhythm that effectively conveys her passion, trepidation and love—what seems to be the real Bing underneath the famous model exterior.

Worth reading not for its revelations about famous names, but for the author’s ability to trace her journey through the many joys and obstacles of life in the modern era.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-59691-481-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2009

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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