A touching personal delineation of divided loyalties and riven hearts.

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THE UNLIKELY SETTLER

Bittersweet memoir of a multicultural marriage riding the perilous shoals of Jerusalem’s ethnic split.

In the 1990s, Bangladesh-born author Pelham, a journalist with BBC World Service, married Leo, a London Jew whose job as a roving Middle East reporter took the family from Morocco to Syria to Jerusalem. From the outset, the author was deeply conflicted about her own divided upbringing and balked at the thought of living in strife-ridden Jerusalem: The daughter of a Bengali Muslim father, Pelham considered herself more Hindu and Indian; while respecting her husband’s Jewish faith, she balked at conversion. Leo’s work with international NGOs took him often into Gaza, while Pelham was keenly aware of the Israeli slight to Muslim culture, music and Arabic language. Frequently going to Ramallah to visit her Arab friends and conduct interviews, she realized she was entering a thriving world that Israelis knew little about. The children, too, were conflicted: The elder boy, who attended an Anglo international school, resisted learning Hebrew and hated letting others know his Jewish last name; the younger daughter adored her Israeli “peace” nursery school and broke out into patriotic songs in Hebrew. Israel’s “South Africa syndrome” exacerbated the underlying trouble in the marriage, and the enforced vigilance, entrenchment and pressure both oppressed her and prodded her to “reinvent” herself. She quit her position and became a stringer at the Jerusalem bureau, which took her on an interview to a refugee camp, where Palestinian children spit on her daughter. Immersed in her documentary work on honor killings, she was led deeply into Palestinian life, while “the rotating cycle of doom” both within Jerusalem and the marriage caused violent scenes and recriminations between the couple, who loved each other but could similarly not find peace, until the birth of a third child.

A touching personal delineation of divided loyalties and riven hearts.

Pub Date: March 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59051-683-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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