An absorbing, if unsettling, survivor’s account, rendered with passion and spirit.




In this disturbing debut memoir, a “red diaper baby” celebrates surviving a tumultuous upbringing by her Communist, labor-organizing and often absent parents.

Shtarke, a Yiddish word meaning “strong-spirited,” certainly describes De Felice’s late mother, Clara Fiering, an indefatigable labor organizer and advocate for the downtrodden. This episodic book largely focuses on her; the author’s father, Henry Fiering, was cut from the same mold but receives second billing. The author’s parents’ rocky marriage, marked by frequent separations and work that put the interests of the Communist Party and unions first, left De Felice to fend for herself from an early age. In this revealing memoir, she shows how this situation sometimes led to disaster. A monstrous babysitter, for example, regularly left her tied to a chair for hours while she went shopping. One day, when the author was not yet a teenager, a group of boys assaulted her when she was walking home alone from school; when she got home, her mother was busy conducting a political meeting and failed to see her dishevelment. The family also constantly moved wherever the party sent them. Yet amid this trauma, De Felice effectively shows how she deeply loved her parents, who did seem to be committed to her, and how a full complement of relatives and friends added some semblance of stability to her life. Although her parents were avowed atheists, they admonished her to “just remember you’re Jewish,” which provided her with another source of sustenance. However, this memoir lacks a detailed explanation of the parents’ political beliefs, other than the fact that both were Communist Party members until 1953. Did they try to build labor unions so that workers would get fairer wages and better working conditions, or were they committed Marxists striving to create a proletariat that would seize the means of production? The author says that they left the party because “they couldn’t stand the dogma any longer,” but she doesn’t specify what dogma. There are also a few historical inaccuracies, as when the author says that “hundreds died” when cavalry and Army troops attacked unemployed World War I veterans during a 1932 march in Washington, D.C.; most historical accounts put the number at four.

An absorbing, if unsettling, survivor’s account, rendered with passion and spirit.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-1477210772

Page Count: 300

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2014

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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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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.


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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