A powerful, emotionally resonant memoir of a young boy’s bout with cancer as experienced by his devoted mother.

IF

A MOTHER'S MEMOIR

A mother’s perspective on her son’s harrowing bout with lymphoma.

As French author Marzouk relates in her English-language debut, what started out as a sore throat escalated into something far more dangerous for 10-year-old Solal. When his tonsil had black streaks on it, his parents knew they needed professional help. Of course, they were blindsided by the diagnosis of cancer. The author and her husband were suddenly thrust into a different world as Solal moved into the Curie Institute in Paris for treatments. Because they had two other children who needed them, they also had to maintain some semblance of normalcy throughout the long months ahead. Marzouk delivers this tender memoir via two points of view: first person, which gives readers her immediate, often visceral reactions to such things as the doctor’s first analysis of Solal’s prognosis and Solal’s hair beginning to fall out due to chemotherapy; and third person, which gives a wider perspective of events and includes Solal’s reactions. The author skillfully deploys telling details, and her descriptions of what Solal endured and how she felt puts readers into the same space as the family, creating a narrative that is sometimes overwhelmingly intense. The author’s determination and sheer willpower to endure this ordeal shine through on nearly every page. For those who have been touched by cancer, the book will bring back memories of treatments and sickness, of fears and sadness, and of joy and hope. “You’re here,” she writes in conclusion. “I’m not making it up. You really are here. Freed from the Institute and its machines with their gloomy notes. And so I sing in order to forget, to forget the risks you still run, forget my fear, forget uncertainty. Yes, Solal, we must sing, we must keep singing obstinately. But even so, what if? What if? In spite of everything, there’s always an if.”

A powerful, emotionally resonant memoir of a young boy’s bout with cancer as experienced by his devoted mother.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59051-097-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US

A MEMOIR

In her first nonfiction book, novelist Grande (Dancing with Butterflies, 2009, etc.) delves into her family’s cycle of separation and reunification.

Raised in poverty so severe that spaghetti reminded her of the tapeworms endemic to children in her Mexican hometown, the author is her family’s only college graduate and writer, whose honors include an American Book Award and International Latino Book Award. Though she was too young to remember her father when he entered the United States illegally seeking money to improve life for his family, she idolized him from afar. However, she also blamed him for taking away her mother after he sent for her when the author was not yet 5 years old. Though she emulated her sister, she ultimately answered to herself, and both siblings constantly sought affirmation of their parents’ love, whether they were present or not. When one caused disappointment, the siblings focused their hopes on the other. These contradictions prove to be the narrator’s hallmarks, as she consistently displays a fierce willingness to ask tough questions, accept startling answers, and candidly render emotional and physical violence. Even as a girl, Grande understood the redemptive power of language to define—in the U.S., her name’s literal translation, “big queen,” led to ridicule from other children—and to complicate. In spelling class, when a teacher used the sentence “my mamá loves me” (mi mamá me ama), Grande decided to “rearrange the words so that they formed a question: ¿Me ama mi mamá? Does my mama love me?”

A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6177-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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