A sharp, searing view of war from the front lines and an important contribution to understanding how a nation can...

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BROTHERS OF THE GUN

A MEMOIR OF THE SYRIAN WAR

A richly detailed, sometimes horrifying account of the Syrian civil war.

Here’s one thing to note about getting tear-gassed: Writes Hisham, soda pop in the eyes is a good remedy, and “along with the tear gas, the Coca-Cola washes away any lingering traces of shame,” even if it leaves an awful mess. But this is a book of awful messes, of city blocks and families torn apart and friendships broken by events. The brothers of the title are Hisham’s friends Nael and Tareq, citizens of the ancient city of Raqqa, “a superstitious, conservative community, where many people insisted that before one undertook any important task or made a difficult choice, one needed to go to the tomb of some pious wali and ask for his blessings.” The choices each of the boys made led to government school for one, death for another, and a life on the run as an Islamist revolutionary for the third. As he recounts the events leading to the increasing repression on the part of the Assad regime and the eventual descent of Syria into civil conflict, Hisham writes with a wryly observant eye for telling remarks. If the customary cry of faithful warriors was that God is great, then the quietly subversive retort of a Raqqawi graffiti artist makes for a fine rejoinder: “Tomorrow is better.” Tomorrow is a rare commodity in Hisham’s fast-moving account, which is enhanced by Crabapple’s powerful ink drawings. Having abandoned the religiosity of his youth—what Syria needs is science, reason, and economists instead of mullahs—Hisham comes to a hard conclusion: Too many Syrians will pick up the gun in the name of Islam even though, “when you are a programmed machine with a gun, all that is left in you that is human is the feeling that you are invincible; when you are not, you know exactly how weak you are.”

A sharp, searing view of war from the front lines and an important contribution to understanding how a nation can disintegrate before one’s eyes.

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-59062-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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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 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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