Novelist Gould’s (No Brakes, 1997; Medusa’s Gift, 1991) memoir vividly captures both her joyless childhood as daughter of an aloof fashion-designer mother and the old New York that shaped them both. Jo Copeland, though not now a household name, was once a star of the American fashion industry. In a career spanning the years from the 1920s to the 1960s, Copeland rose from fabric cutter to the designer who brought glamour to American fashion. But while Copeland’s designs were romantic, her outlook was not. Her attitude, described with characteristic acerbic wit by Gould, was: “Sexy was wonderful. Sex wasn’t.” In her daughter’s honest and cool analysis (which the reader grows to share), Copeland emerges as a woman for whom clothes were a refuge from the facts of life. Given that Copeland pursued her career at the cost of her marriage (her husband felt he couldn’t “possess” her and walked out) and that her own mother died in childbirth, Copeland’s extreme withdrawal from family life is, if not pardonable, then at least comprehensible. While Gould infuses Mommy Dressing with bitter memories of a painful family life, her memoir lives up to its claim to be a love story. It portrays a child obsessed with a fear of abandonment and a painful desire for love and affection, realistic responses in light of the noticeable lack of warmth conveyed in the scenes of daily life depicting solitary dinners, stony silences, fiery outbursts, and intimate betrayals. The reader perceives both Gould’s struggle to bridge the gap of silence that long separated her from her mother and her painful awareness of that impossibility, along with a mature acceptance of her mother’s choices. Breezily readable yet deeply painful, Gould’s memoir captures the glamour, the mystery, and the pain of her mother’s personal and private life.(24 b&w illustrations)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-49053-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Anchor

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1998

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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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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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