A sympathetic, authoritative collective biography.

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NINTH STREET WOMEN

LEE KRASNER, ELAINE DE KOONING, GRACE HARTIGAN, JOAN MITCHELL, AND HELEN FRANKENTHALER: FIVE PAINTERS AND THE MOVEMENT THAT CHANGED MODERN ART

From 1929 to 1959, five women were central to a profound artistic revolution.

Drawing on memoirs, more than 200 interviews, a huge trove of archival material, and a wide range of books and articles, Gabriel (Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution, 2011, etc.) has created an ambitious, comprehensive, and impressively detailed history of abstract expressionism focused on the lives and works of Elaine de Kooning, Lee Krasner, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler. The author effectively sets her subjects in historical and cultural context, including “the ever-changing role of women in U.S. society, and the often overlooked spiritual importance of art to humankind.” The last goal is realized best through the testimonies of the women themselves about the significance of art to their spiritual well-being. Of different generations and often rivals, they did not cohere into a group, but they shared “courage, a spirit of rebellion, and a commitment to create.” They noisily railed against being ignored by the art establishment, angry that their husbands or lovers (Elaine’s Willem de Kooning and Krasner’s Jackson Pollock, for example) won attention and accolades while they were assumed “to accept the part of a grateful appendage” or, at best, a muse. Pollock, touted in a Life magazine profile as possibly “the greatest living painter in the United States,” emerged as the first artist celebrity. Gabriel takes her title from a groundbreaking exhibition organized, mounted, and publicized by artists in May 1951 that made the New York School of painters—the term was coined by Robert Motherwell—instantly visible. Although gaining critical attention, the first generation of New School artists struggled financially, working and living in unheated studios, subsisting on meager meals, trading art for food, and fueling themselves with copious amounts of alcohol. Their “community of goodwill and creativity” was undermined by betrayal, infidelity, and drunkenness. The author traces the changing art world with the influx of new galleries and “a tidal wave of money” as art caught on as an investment.

A sympathetic, authoritative collective biography.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-22618-9

Page Count: 944

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 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 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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