Nine other writers might well have selected nine different subjects, which serves as a tribute to the indomitable Irish...

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NINE IRISH LIVES

THE THINKERS, FIGHTERS, AND ARTISTS WHO HELPED BUILD AMERICA

Essays on “nine Irish men and women [who] not only became American but also helped make America great.”

What makes these pieces work so well is the connection each writer feels with the chosen subject, with those not primarily known as writers revealing as much about themselves as their subject through their choice. For example, Rosie O’Donnell writes about helping the recovery in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and coming upon a statue of a woman with a child under her arm. It identified the woman only as Margaret, but O’Donnell identified strongly with this woman who had selflessly devoted her life to orphans. O’Donnell has considered herself an orphan since the death of her mother and has adopted five children. “I see myself in her,” she writes. Then there’s Irish émigré Pierce Brosnan, who identifies strongly with the experience of silent film director Rex Ingram, since both were primarily interested in visual art even after turning to acting—and both found that “Hollywood and the movie business was an empire built almost entirely by immigrants, men and women who had recently arrived in our country and who were in fact looking to reinvent themselves.” Film provocateur Michael Moore picks muckraking pioneer Samuel S. McClure, and he laments how the age of Trump could benefit from his example. Mark Shriver, who runs Save Our Children, connects some dots in the story of Boys Town’s Father Edward J. Flanagan. The piece by novelist Kathleen Hill on New Yorker writer Maeve Brennan is mostly literary criticism, in appreciation of someone who didn’t receive her due until her posthumous collection of stories—the renowned writer and editor William Maxwell had judged her “the best living Irish writer of fiction, but in her own country she was almost entirely unknown.”

Nine other writers might well have selected nine different subjects, which serves as a tribute to the indomitable Irish character and the transformational possibilities of America. This is a perfect St. Patrick’s Day anthology for the Irish book lover on your gift list.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61620-517-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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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

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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