MARIA TALLCHIEF

AMERICA'S PRIMA BALLERINA

The tastefully yet candidly told life story of one of America's most gifted dancers, a former wife of George Balanchine. Tallchief was born Elizabeth Marie Tall Chief in 1925, to an alcoholic but loving Osage Indian father and a white mother in small-town Oklahoma. When the family moved to Los Angeles, she began studying ballet with Bronislava Nijinska (``It was from Madame Nijinska that I first understood that the dancer's soul is in the middle of the body''). Tallchief joined the Ballet Russe while still a teenager and changed her name to Maria at the suggestion of Agnes de Mille. She first worked with Balanchine in 1944, when he was hired as a choreographer by the Ballet Russe. A year later, the much older man of few words shocked her by saying casually that ``I would like you to become my wife.'' Although this collaboration between Tallchief and ghostwriter Kaplan (Prodigal Son, 1992) does not include much about Tallchief's firsthand view of Balanchine's revisionary classical technique, the book abounds with droll tales and with detailed descriptions of her roles in Balanchine's The Firebird, The Nutcracker, Orpheus, and Sylvia, among others. She chronicles, too sketchily, doings among her famous fellow dancers at the New York City Ballet. Her marriage to Balanchine ended in an annulment. Tallchief is equally frank and lively in describing her career after Balanchines, including an affair with the nubile Rudolf Nureyev. (``I taught him the twist . . . he picked it up right away.'') She also offers penetrating, if tactful, criticism of NYCB's post-Balanchine regime: ``The irony of George's remark that `ballet is woman' is that today most of the companies in the world are being run by men . . . the contribution former Balanchine ballerinas can make, ballerinas who worked directly with George and who created their roles, isn't being valued, not even in George's own company.'' What would happen, one wonders, if this remarkable woman were running things? (32 pages photos, not seen)

Pub Date: April 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8050-3302-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1997

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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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