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A warmly intelligent and insightful collection.

An Irish comic and writer gathers essays about her experiences living and working in the United States.

In this sharp and readable book, Higgins (We Have a Good Time…Don’t We?, 2013, etc.) tells the story of how she came to America as an adult still learning how to go about “the endlessly tricky business of being a regular human being.” In “Rent the Runway,” for example, she details her experience of renting a decidedly unmagical—but more affordable—second-choice gown for her first New York ball. The process uncovered all of the author’s personal insecurities, but a moment of grace at the ball made her realize that she was more than just her attire. In “Pen as Gun,” Higgins turns her attention to her profession, discussing an especially memorable experience leading a comedy workshop in Iraq. Working with Muslim comics who spoke truth to power made her acutely aware of “the sliver of shared space between comedy and tragedy,” and it gave her insight into the dark humor of her Northern Irish counterparts. A keen observer of culture, the author offers timely insights about race and immigration in America. In “Aliens of Extraordinary Ability,” she describes how Irish-American nostalgia often imagines an Ireland that never existed; at the same time, she muses on the privilege her “indoor ghost face” has conferred on her in America. Higgins points out how early Irish immigrants learned how to collaborate in the oppression of other minorities to get ahead but how descendants like Mike Pence continue to ignore the crucial role race played in their ascension to (white) success. Her own commitment to truth before humor emerges clearly in “Wildflowers.” Unable to keep a promise to a producer that she would turn a podcast about immigration into comedy fluff, the author lost the show but maintained her integrity. Witty, humane, and topical, these essays offer an enlightened perspective on modern American culture while probing the energetic inner life of a bright young Irish comic.

A warmly intelligent and insightful collection.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-14-313016-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 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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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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