Controversial and enigmatic, the tragic trajectory of Scott-Heron’s life and career is expertly examined in this testament...

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GIL SCOTT-HERON

PIECES OF A MAN

The first full-length biography of the legendary poet/musician famous for his socially conscious lyrics.

A revered figure of both hip-hop and the counterculture, Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011) was an artist who defied easy classification. Born in Chicago but raised predominately in the small town of Jackson, Tennessee, Scott-Heron experienced firsthand the hypocrisy of segregation and the blues’ “pathos and gut-wrenching emotional honesty,” which would provide him with a rhythm to which to set his evocative lyrics. International Business Times managing editor Baram, who knew his subject during his life, claims that Scott-Heron’s unique style “would emphasize certain words on certain beats, anticipating by a decade the revolution of hip-hop.” Though indebted to blues, his two major influences were Langston Hughes and John Coltrane. Scott-Heron had always considered himself a writer who used music as a way to perform his poetry, and it was Coltrane’s vision and drive that inspired Scott-Heron to focus on his writing. While at Lincoln University, Scott-Heron transformed from a somewhat reserved though passionate observer to an outspoken advocate of social justice. His music reflected this change in the narratives he sang of ghetto life, such as “The Bottle,” as well his bitter critique of American culture and power, “Winter in America.” The polemical “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” would define his career, though Scott-Heron often harangued its misinterpretation, despite licensing the song to Nike. Scott-Heron sought to raise awareness of and legitimize the black experience in America, only to witness the malaise and apathy of the late 1970s erode the progressive spirit that inspired him. He continued to record, but without longtime friend and collaborator Brian Jackson, his sales and critical reception waned. Retreating into a severe cocaine addiction, resulting in several arrests and jail sentences, Scott-Heron made a final recording in 2010 before dying in 2011.

Controversial and enigmatic, the tragic trajectory of Scott-Heron’s life and career is expertly examined in this testament to one of the last great radical artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-1250012784

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

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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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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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