THE WOMAN WARRIOR

MEMOIRS OF A GIRLHOOD AMONG GHOSTS

How closely they guarded their lives, those Chinese-Americans pressing the clothes, so that we were never able to focus on them or comprehend their outlook. Concealment thwarted the gods, the author of these extraordinary memoirs reports, and their American-born children too—always trying to get things straight, to name the unspeakable. But her mother talked stories in warning, and these merged into dreams, hopes, new stories. One aunt, cast out by the family, drowned herself and her newborn bastard daughter in the well: Adultery is extravagance. Could people who hatch their own chicks and eat the embryos and the heads. . .—could such people engender a prodigal aunt? To be a woman, to have a daughter in starvation time was waste enough. But if women must be slaves, they may also be warriors (the book is hospitable to paradox) like the warrior woman Fa Mu Lan, whose story becomes the author's as—no maidenly Joan of Arc—she rides into battle with her childhood friend/ husband at her side and her infant son inside her armor. (My American life has been such a disappointment.) Her mother studies medicine and, to impress her schoolmates, routs a ghost; she yanks bones straight in a silk robe and western shoes (until my father sent for her to live in the Bronx). An elderly aunt from Hong Kong is goaded into reclaiming the husband, since remarried, who has not seen her—but has supported her—for thirty years. The tightknit story of their confrontation is the author's invention, an intricate Chinese knot like the one once proscribed to protect the knot-maker's eyes: If I had lived in China, I would have been an outlaw knot-maker. Still, she wants to go back to China to sort out what's just my childhood, just my imagination, just my family, just the movies, just living. The several strands, inseparable here, create a spirit-presence you won't soon forget.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 1976

ISBN: 0679721886

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1976

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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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