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SIX DEGREES OF LATITUDE: TRAVEL TALES OF SCOTLAND AND IRELAND

A thoughtful reminiscence best suited to an audience of the author’s family and friends.

Lee chronicles multiple trips she took to Scotland and Ireland and offers tips to travelers.

The author visited Scotland and Ireland several times—she recounts four trips to Scotland and one to Ireland between 2003 and 2018—with family and friends. Her preparations for these excursions are thorough and sometimes fascinating. She regales the reader not only with accounts of the countries’ folklore, mythology, and cultural mores, but also with detailed accounts of their histories, including the archaeological evidence of their prehistorical topography and inhabitants. In anticipation of her trip to Scotland in 2008, she “created illustrated charts, maps, and a timeline of history for a pocket-sized, spiral-bound, hand-written study guide for each of the travelers.” The reader interested in duplicating her travels will likely benefit from her notable meticulousness—the book includes not only a day-by-day commentary on her movements, but also beautifully hand-drawn maps and pictures as well as photographs. More than merely a travelogue, this is a meditation on belonging and on Scottish ancestry. The author experiences a sublime sensation of return while visiting Scotland, an experience affectingly conveyed: “As we walked along the Cuillen Mountains and the Sea of the Hebrides, my hair curled softly, my eyes opened wide under the high grey cover of clouds, and my shoes crunched the fine gravel. I smelled salt and sheep shit and thought, not for the first time, I’m home.”

Lee’s account of her travels, while charming, often seems too personally idiosyncratic to serve as an ideal guide for the average traveler or even one with as much historical curiosity as the author. She dwells at great length on her own emotional experience as well as on the dynamic between herself and her travel companions, a personal element of the book referenced in its title: “Six degrees of latitude refers not only to the distance from the north coast of Scotland to the southern shores of Ireland but also to each of us giving each other enough physical, emotional, and intellectual leeway to make this trip possible while simultaneously sharing our genuine selves and experiences. We came to know each other in ways not otherwise possible in our daily lives.” Lee does, however, include in the book a series of helpful indices; for example, she provides excellent counsel regarding the essentials one should pack. Moreover, this quirky remembrance is brimming with curious factoids about Irish and Scottish culture; who knew that human sacrifice was a “normal part of Celtic rituals”? Lee even provides details of her Aunt Froggie’s recipe for Yorkshire pudding. For the most part, though, one simply has to wade through far too much narrative commentary to glean advice. In short, the book as a whole reads more like a diaristic account of Lee’s personal experiences rather than a useful travel guide for others. For this reason, it’s most likely to prove delightful to her family and friends, especially those who traveled with her. For the very same reasons, though, it is unlikely to be a suitable guide for those outside that intimate circle.

A thoughtful reminiscence best suited to an audience of the author’s family and friends.

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2022

ISBN: 979-8985179705

Page Count: 284

Publisher: Leslie Lee Publisher

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2022

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TANQUERAY

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

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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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