A story rich in emotional description but hastily recounted at times.

I'M STILL HERE

A cancer survivor recalls her treatment, recovery, and life before her diagnosis in her debut memoir.

In the “uncommonly hot” summer of 1969, Reaves relocated to San Francisco after two years at Pomona College in Claremont, California. The opening chapter describes her going about her summer job answering calls at the Greyhound bus company and meeting an alluring streetcar driver named David. The memoir then fast-forwards to 2008, when Reaves was diagnosed with tongue cancer. The author sets about recounting her earlier years in which she lived in a six-bedroom commune started by David, whom she later married before they relocated to the British Virgin Islands to work as teachers. Chapters that chronicle the various stages of her cancer treatments are interspersed with those that tell of her attending law school, coming out, and meeting her life partner, Tanya. In 1986, Reaves gave birth to their son, Cooper, and afterward had chemotherapy for lymphoma. Her memoir is about how she learned to live her life regardless of her challenges, and she is skilled in conveying complex emotions. Recalling her drug regimen for tongue cancer, she writes: “I imagine my death, my memorial service, life in my household without me. Tears flow randomly, without warning. At times, I’m at peace, gazing out the window at brilliant blue skies and leafless trees, feeling the golden light pouring over my bed where I doze.” Such passages evoke an overwhelming sense of pathos. Other aspects of Reaves’ richly textured life are hurriedly described. In depicting the Virgin Islands, the author attempts to set the scene in the space of a sentence that doesn’t transport the reader: “St. Thomas teems with life: kids yelling, dogs barking, horns tooting, music blasting, parents yelling, mosquitoes buzzing, mice skittering, cockroaches crunching, lizards slithering, everyone laughing, laughing, laughing.” The central focus of the memoir, Reaves’ battle against cancer, is reflective and hopeful but not a step-by-step guide to coping. The emphasis is on the author’s courageous journey, which is in itself empowering.

A story rich in emotional description but hastily recounted at times.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63152-876-7

Page Count: 262

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2020

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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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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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