An often humorous, occasionally poignant reflection on growing up in the 1960s and ’70s.



A retired judge and baby boomer reflects on his adolescent years.

A former District Court judge, Munger has spent his retirement writing an impressive number of books, from mysteries and short stories to biographies and essay collections. In this, his most intimate work, he looks introspectively at his years as a child, teenager, and young adult in 1960s and ’70s Duluth, Minnesota. Written as a collection of essays and a “string of vignettes” rather than a straightforward autobiographical narrative, the author emphasizes that his “pure, unadulterated visions of the past” emerge straight from his memory. With this disclaimer that specific dates, events, and names may be off, Munger recollects delightful childhood events that are nostalgic rather than maudlin. Like many White adults of the 1950s, Munger’s parents benefited from the postwar economic boom that afforded their children a carefree, sheltered youth spent playing sports, riding bikes, swimming, and ice-skating. Essays cover an almost clichéd collection of stories about the life of a 1960s White kid from a small city, with entire chapters devoted to baseball games, childhood antics (“Low Crimes and Misdemeanors”), and humorous anecdotes such as “puking” on the school principal. In Munger’s wistful retelling, seemingly every group of kids in Duluth had their own makeshift fort, shack, or clubhouse (“sanctuaries from scrutiny”) that evolved from imaginary playhouses to storage units for Playboy magazines, cigarettes, and other teenage “contraband.” Munger hailed from Bob Dylan’s hometown, so there is, of course, the obligatory essay on “Sex, Drugs, & Rock and Roll” outlining the author’s own escapades in the early 1970s.

Though often lighthearted, the memoir doesn’t shy away from honest portrayals of his “obsessive/compulsive” mother and absent father, a personal injury lawyer who was constantly chasing “a big payday.” In one particularly unsettling passage, the author recalls his father declaring to him in the middle of a family fight that his mother was “having an affair with a fancy-assed Twin Cities Doctor.” His mother proceeded to describe “all the women” her husband had slept with. Students of mid-20th-century Midwestern politics are also given insights into the family dynamics of one of Duluth’s most politically active families whose social circles included Hubert Humphrey. Not only is the author’s uncle Willard Munger the longest-serving member in the history of the Minnesota House of Representatives, but his father, Harry, served as chairman of the Democratic Party of St. Louis County. Both are described in intimate detail here. Accompanied by ample family photos and snapshots, this is a deeply personal, approachable, well-written book. A powerful theme that runs throughout is an abiding love of Northern Minnesota, particularly its natural environment, which served as the stage for Munger’s most profound memories and which the author laments is increasingly being replaced by buildings and asphalt. As a successful, powerful lawyer and judge in his own right, the author ends the story with meeting his wife, René, leaving readers wondering about his own career and post-adolescent life.

An often humorous, occasionally poignant reflection on growing up in the 1960s and ’70s.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73244-342-6

Page Count: 446

Publisher: Cloquet River Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2021

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A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

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A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2022

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A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.


The iconic model tells the story of her eventful life.

According to the acknowledgments, this memoir started as "a fifty-page poem and then grew into hundreds of pages of…more poetry." Readers will be glad that Anderson eventually turned to writing prose, since the well-told anecdotes and memorable character sketches are what make it a page-turner. The poetry (more accurately described as italicized notes-to-self with line breaks) remains strewn liberally through the pages, often summarizing the takeaway or the emotional impact of the events described: "I was / and still am / an exceptionally / easy target. / And, / I'm proud of that." This way of expressing herself is part of who she is, formed partly by her passion for Anaïs Nin and other writers; she is a serious maven of literature and the arts. The narrative gets off to a good start with Anderson’s nostalgic memories of her childhood in coastal Vancouver, raised by very young, very wild, and not very competent parents. Here and throughout the book, the author displays a remarkable lack of anger. She has faced abuse and mistreatment of many kinds over the decades, but she touches on the most appalling passages lightly—though not so lightly you don't feel the torment of the media attention on the events leading up to her divorce from Tommy Lee. Her trip to the pages of Playboy, which involved an escape from a violent fiance and sneaking across the border, is one of many jaw-dropping stories. In one interesting passage, Julian Assange's mother counsels Anderson to desexualize her image in order to be taken more seriously as an activist. She decided that “it was too late to turn back now”—that sexy is an inalienable part of who she is. Throughout her account of this kooky, messed-up, enviable, and often thrilling life, her humility (her sons "are true miracles, considering the gene pool") never fails her.

A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2023

ISBN: 9780063226562

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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