A thoughtful, entertaining memoir of a troubled youth.

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TAFOLLA TORO

THREE YEARS OF FEAR

Gomez (The Cilantro Diaries, 2017), chairman of Geekdom and co-founder of the 80/20 Foundation, reveals how anxiety shaped his early years in this wellness memoir.

The author grew up in San Antonio, where his parents made sure that he gained admittance to Tafolla Middle School, the “Harvard of Middle Schools.” In 1993, at the age of 12, he began sixth grade there in a state of fear that he couldn’t articulate to others: “I was so afraid and had so much anxiety during those three years of middle school that I completely blocked out my memories of that time,” he recalls. It was only years later, in therapy, that the author discovered the anxiety of his early adolescence was at the root of the addiction, anger, and depression that he experienced as an adult. This book is an attempt to recover and reconcile his middle school memories for his own edification and to help young teenagers who may be going through similar difficulties. The author describes living his life as one of seven children, dealing with local gang members, learning Latin in school (his mother wouldn’t let him take Spanish, as “she was told that if they didn’t speak English, the school would not accept” her kids), and listening to 1990s alternative rock. Every chapter ends with a letter from Gomez to his 12-year-old self, whom he refers to by his nickname, “Lench” (short for “Lorenzo”), and offering him advice he wishes that he’d heard at the time. Gomez is a fine storyteller, and his anecdotes are inflected with appealing humor; when his Spanish-speaking grandmother heard about his mother’s directive regarding Latin class, she quipped, “Who’s he going to speak Latin to? The Pope?” He’s also an adept communicator of emotion, which comes through most clearly in his “Lench” letters: “My point is that there is no ceremony when you graduate from a young person into being an adult. So consider this letter your Adultness Diploma.” Young readers who find themselves struggling with anxiety and older readers still sifting through the problems of their teenage years will find value in this openhearted work, which captures a specific time and place in vivid, neon colors.

A thoughtful, entertaining memoir of a troubled youth.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5445-0517-6

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Geekdom Media

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2019

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A vivid sequel that strains credulity.

THE ESCAPE ARTIST

Fremont (After Long Silence, 1999) continues—and alters—her story of how memories of the Holocaust affected her family.

At the age of 44, the author learned that her father had disowned her, declaring her “predeceased”—or dead in his eyes—in his will. It was his final insult: Her parents had stopped speaking to her after she’d published After Long Silence, which exposed them as Jewish Holocaust survivors who had posed as Catholics in Europe and America in order to hide multilayered secrets. Here, Fremont delves further into her tortured family dynamics and shows how the rift developed. One thread centers on her life after her harrowing childhood: her education at Wellesley and Boston University, the loss of her virginity to a college boyfriend before accepting her lesbianism, her stint with the Peace Corps in Lesotho, and her decades of work as a lawyer in Boston. Another strand involves her fraught relationship with her sister, Lara, and how their difficulties relate to their father, a doctor embittered after years in the Siberian gulag; and their mother, deeply enmeshed with her own sister, Zosia, who had married an Italian count and stayed in Rome to raise a child. Fremont tells these stories with novelistic flair, ending with a surprising theory about why her parents hid their Judaism. Yet she often appears insensitive to the serious problems she says Lara once faced, including suicidal depression. “The whole point of suicide, I thought, was to succeed at it,” she writes. “My sister’s completion rate was pathetic.” Key facts also differ from those in her earlier work. After Long Silence says, for example, that the author grew up “in a small city in the Midwest” while she writes here that she grew up in “upstate New York,” changes Fremont says she made for “consistency” in the new book but that muddy its narrative waters. The discrepancies may not bother readers seeking psychological insights rather than factual accuracy, but others will wonder if this book should have been labeled a fictionalized autobiography rather than a memoir.

A vivid sequel that strains credulity.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982113-60-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A highly readable account of how solid research and personal testing of self-help techniques saved a couple's marriage after...

HOW NOT TO HATE YOUR HUSBAND AFTER KIDS

Self-help advice and personal reflections on avoiding spousal fights while raising children.

Before her daughter was born, bestselling author Dunn (Why Is My Mother Getting a Tattoo?: And Other Questions I Wish I Never Had to Ask, 2009, etc.) enjoyed steady work and a happy marriage. However, once she became a mother, there never seemed to be enough time, sleep, and especially help from her husband. Little irritations became monumental obstacles between them, which led to major battles. Consequently, they turned to expensive couples' therapy to help them regain some peace in life. In a combination of memoir and advice that can be found in most couples' therapy self-help books, Dunn provides an inside look at her own vexing issues and the solutions she and her husband used to prevent them from appearing in divorce court. They struggled with age-old battles fought between men and women—e.g., frequency of sex, who does more housework, who should get up with the child in the middle of the night, why women need to have a clean house, why men need more alone time, and many more. What Dunn learned via therapy, talks with other parents, and research was that there is no perfect solution to the many dynamics that surface once couples become parents. But by using time-tested techniques, she and her husband learned to listen, show empathy, and adjust so that their former status as a happy couple could safely and peacefully morph into a happy family. Readers familiar with Dunn's honest and humorous writing will appreciate the behind-the-scenes look at her own semi-messy family life, and those who need guidance through the rough spots can glean advice while being entertained—all without spending lots of money on couples’ therapy.

A highly readable account of how solid research and personal testing of self-help techniques saved a couple's marriage after the birth of their child.

Pub Date: March 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-26710-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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