THE CALLING OF KATIE MAKANYA

A MEMOIR OF SOUTH AFRICA

A moving, beautifully told account of an ordinary, yet extraordinary, life in South Africa. With a few notable exceptions, most South African memoirs of the 19th and early 20th centuries record the life and doings only of whites. This is why McCord's oral history of the life of Katie Makanya is so welcome and valuable. Winner of the Johannesburg Sunday Times/Alan Paton Prize for Non-Fiction, it is a sensitive and penetrating portrait of a culture, a time, and a place rarely seen from the inside. Makanya was well into her 80s when she insisted that McCord—the daughter of physician James McCord, for whom Makanya worked for 35 years as an interpreter and assistant in the province of Natal—tape and write up her recollections. Makanya was born in the early 1870s in the Cape Province. She did well in school and could speak any number of languages, but her real gift was her voice. When the choir she sang in won a local competition, a promoter sent the group on a tour of England. They traveled around the country to great acclaim, singing even to Queen Victoria. Makanya stood out clearly from the rest, and the prospect of a celebrated career in Europe was dangled before her. But after more than two years abroad, she wanted to return to her own people and find a husband and have children. And so she hid away the jewels she'd been given, concealed her education, put on the humble clothes and attitude that whites would expect of her, and became a servant. Eventually she met a Zulu man, Ndeya, and, overcoming parental resistance (her mother's people, the Fingoes, had been chased off their land by the Zulus), married him. The Boer War was brewing, so the newlyweds retreated to Ndeya's home in Natal, where Makanya was hired by the new doctor from America, Jack McCord, as his assistant. With few interruptions, they would work together until they both retired. Makanya's story is emotionally compelling, resonantly detailed, and of extraordinary cultural significance. (11 pages b&w photos)

Pub Date: March 14, 1997

ISBN: 0-471-17890-X

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Wiley

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1997

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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