Highly recommended for both experienced and aspiring authors and for avid readers who want to learn the back stories of the...

SCRATCH

WRITERS, MONEY, AND THE ART OF MAKING A LIVING

The founder of the online journal Scratch, loaded with information about how authors labor to earn a livelihood, collects essays and interviews that appeared online and supplements those with original offerings.

In this well-organized, fascinating anthology, a host of fiction and nonfiction authors share practical tips and emotional intelligence. Among the best-known authors included are Susan Orlean, Cheryl Strayed, Jonathan Franzen, Roxane Gay, Jennifer Weiner, Richard Rodriguez, and Nick Hornby, all of whose contributions are worthy. Yet many of the most compelling essays come from lesser-known writers, some of whom have yet to publish a book. One such standout is Sarah Smarsh, a former grant writer and current magazine writer who splits her time between her native Kansas and her new home in Texas and whose first book will be published in 2017. Smarsh specializes in writing about poverty, especially the poverty of relatively uneducated whites; in her essay, she reflects on making the jump from her family's poverty to higher education and, eventually, a promising writing career. In “The Best Work in Literature,” anthology editor Martin, the managing editor of Zoetrope: All Story, grapples with similar issues, sharing anecdotes about trying to pay the rent and eat properly in an economy that pays poorly for published writing. Each contributor deals directly or indirectly with the often unhappy intersection of commerce and art in the contemporary American economy. For every commercial success story—e.g., Strayed, Weiner, Franzen, or Alexander Chee—there are countless failures. At times, what can best be termed as "luck" arrives, as in the essay by Nina MacLaughlin, who explains how a piece she reluctantly agreed to write for no pay led to a book contract.

Highly recommended for both experienced and aspiring authors and for avid readers who want to learn the back stories of the contributors.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3457-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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