A well-made, evenhanded, sometimes cautionary story of business, told with the affection and exasperation of an insider.

FAMOUS NATHAN

A FAMILY SAGA OF CONEY ISLAND, THE AMERICAN DREAM, AND THE SEARCH FOR THE PERFECT HOT DOG

Everyone’s a wiener in this frank account by a scion of hot dog nobility.

There was no such thing as “fast food,” documentarian Handwerker asserts, before his grandfather Nathan came on the scene, having emigrated from Galicia and made his way somehow to Coney Island. There, in 1916, after proving himself a hard worker and excellent businessman in the service of other immigrants, he founded a fast-food restaurant that would specialize in hot dogs—more specifically, Nathan’s Famous dogs, the namesake of his eatery. In time, writes the author, Nathan’s Famous would be the province of stars like Jacqueline Kennedy and Frank Sinatra, hailed by proto-foodies and the hipster crowd of the day. However, he insists, “the place was never about celebrities. It was democratic through and through.” Nathan paid well, gave generous bonuses, and otherwise took care of his workers, and employees rewarded him with loyal, decadeslong service. That was all very old-fashioned, of course, and things began to turn south when the old ways began to be replaced with the recommendations of advisers, consultants, and bankers. The beginning of the end comes toward the end of Handwerker’s lively book, when Nathan organizes a stock sale that makes the family millions but introduces jealousies, conspiracies, and other headaches. The end of the end—and the lamented end of the Nathan’s Famous dog as the world once knew it—came with the corporatization of the humble wiener, bringing even more money into play but taking most of the simple pleasure out of a visit to the beach. “The Nathan’s Famous is nowadays more of a licensing business,” writes Handwerker, bringing the snack to grocery stores far and wide, if without any of Nathan Handwerker’s dogged attention to every detail.

A well-made, evenhanded, sometimes cautionary story of business, told with the affection and exasperation of an insider.

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-07454-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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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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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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