A charming memoir that will amuse and inspire parents, teachers, and Shakespeare fans.

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TEACHING WILL

WHAT SHAKESPEARE AND 10 KIDS GAVE ME THAT HOLLYWOOD COULDN'T

A former actress shares her experiences running a Shakespeare acting club at a Los Angeles elementary school as well as reflections on her own life and career.

Canadian-born actress Ryane had walked away from an acting career and was working as an acting coach and living in LA with her husband, William, when she spotted a flyer that asked for “civilian help” to make Arden Street Elementary “the best school possible.” She volunteered to run an after-school Shakespeare acting club at the school, where students were mostly of color and from low-income families, and transformed a rowdy, distracted group of children into an acting troupe ready to perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She had them follow “rules” for the club: respect each other, Shakespeare, and the acting process and write in journals (excerpts are included here). Ryane soon realized that her group had issues beyond her own experience (literacy challenges) and reminiscent of her own life (facing the scrutiny of casting); she includes several autobiographical flashback sequences for context. Throughout the rehearsal process, Ryane learned to navigate the balance of leading and learning from the children, who proudly came together to play Titania, Bottom, et al., by year’s end. Ryane brings a wry tone to this highly enjoyable memoir, and parents and teachers will undoubtedly appreciate her stories about working with children who are by turns sweet and wily. She effectively brings her pint-size players to life; Miles, the only boy in the production, is a particularly well-drawn character who goes from just wanting to swing a sword to itching to play Hamlet. It’s inspiring how Ryane helped these kids step up to Shakespeare, and their journal excerpts are often hilarious (“William Shakespeare went to London because I like his plays”). The inclusion of various excerpts from Shakespeare’s works also underscores the evergreen emotional connections to be found in the Bard’s work. Overall, a bravura performance.

A charming memoir that will amuse and inspire parents, teachers, and Shakespeare fans.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-1939629234

Page Count: 230

Publisher: Familius

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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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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