An arresting remembrance, as brave as the life it describes.

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THE SUGAR QUEEN

HOW GRIT, LOVE, AND A MYSTERIOUS GIFT BUILT A GREAT LIFE AND A BEAUTY EMPIRE

A woman chronicles her triumph over youthful trauma to become a wildly successful entrepreneur. 

Debut author Kennedy was born in Welland—a small town in Ontario—in 1959, burdened by disadvantages. Her family was poor and her father, an alcoholic addicted to gambling, sexually abused her for years. The author was a fiercely independent youngster, “fearless and curious.” But despite academic talent, she dropped out of school when she was 14 years old. Yet even as a young girl, she was “infatuated with money,” had the “spirit of an entrepreneur,” and seemed destined to stake her own claim in the business world. After years of wandering shiftlessly from job to job, she experienced an auspicious confluence of events that changed her life. Kennedy suffered serious injuries in a horrific car crash and, as a result, received a $10,000 insurance payout. In addition, she saw a business owner discuss “body sugaring,” a process whereby unwanted hair is removed, on a television show. She contacted the owners of Alexandria Body Sugaring, and went into business with them, the first step on a path to founding her own global company, Alexandria Professional, now the “the gold standard in the field.” The author details, with admirably intimate and gripping candor, the arc of her professional life as well as her efforts to master her personal demons and forge an optimistic yet pragmatic spirituality that she learned from adversity: “It showed me that every time I apply my trust and belief in the Universe, in God, in my archangels—whatever it is that sustains us—and in myself, everything works out.” Kennedy’s life is captivatingly eventful, and her indefatigable perseverance remains uplifting. She truly lives by the motto “My favorite direction is onward.” Aspiring entrepreneurs should find not only moral encouragement in her tale, but also concrete lessons about business management. Still, the most intriguing element of the book is the author’s personal introspection—she openhandedly scours her life for meaning and purpose, and pieces together a spiritual worldview, partly the consequence of her experience of an inner voice that steers her toward safety and prosperity. Her reflections regarding her father are especially poignant. After he quit drinking—he faithfully attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings—he turned over a new leaf, and never assaulted her again. Amazingly, she eventually came to trust him again, even around her own young daughters. Forgiveness did not come so easily, and Kennedy’s depiction of her struggles to find it is profound and moving: “Forgiveness is like anything you do. When you practice it, it becomes easier. Forgiveness starts with understanding, with seeing and feeling the other person’s reality. When you practice that empathy, you understand more; when you understand more, it’s easier to apply the next time; when it’s easier to apply, it simply becomes a part of you.” Written in informally anecdotal prose, the author’s memoir is both dramatically absorbing and wise.

An arresting remembrance, as brave as the life it describes. 

Pub Date: March 25, 2019

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 524

Publisher: LNV Publishing Co.

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2019

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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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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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