While the relentless losses, injustices, and unkindnesses make for disturbing reading—as does the author’s ungratefulness...




The Guadeloupian novelist (Windward Heights, 1999, etc.) remembers her privileged but harsh childhood, and the long-coming compassion and awareness that arose from it.

Winner of the 1999 Prix Yourcenar (for a French-language work by a US resident), Tales is comprised of 17 vignettes that reveal the intricacies of Guadeloupian society and the matching complexities of the author’s parents and how they made her a wary rebel throughout her youth. Born into a prominent black family whose parents believed they were the “most brilliant and the most intelligent people alive,” Condé (French Caribbean Literature/Columbia Univ.) is the last of eight children, and from childhood feels slighted by the “commonplace incidents” surrounding her birth, which leave her with the desire to return to the womb and “rediscover a happiness” she knew she had lost “forever.” School and everyday life bring little comfort: She alternately faces the injustice of being beaten by a mysterious boy for her family’s inconsiderate treatment of a servant and by a white girl for being black. She is allowed to play with French-speaking children when the family is in Paris, but forbidden to play with Creole mates in Guadeloupe. This mix leads Condé, at age 10, to determine her parents “alienated,” and vow not to be so herself. Thus she spent the next several years rebelling, coming to some solace only as she accepted her mother in her old age and embraced her Caribbean identity. Throughout, Condé relates her experiences with the decisiveness of youth and the imperiousness of her mother, whose complexity she seems to have inherited as much as the arthritis she decries. Fittingly, the author dedicates this work to her mother.

While the relentless losses, injustices, and unkindnesses make for disturbing reading—as does the author’s ungratefulness and cramped take on life—this is a useful look at the psychological consequences of intolerance.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-56947-264-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2001

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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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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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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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