An inspiring guide to ennobling personal stories that travel to the dark sides of life.

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WRITING HARD STORIES

CELEBRATED MEMOIRISTS WHO SHAPED ART FROM TRAUMA

Investigations into the struggles of rendering painful memories on the page.

Acclaimed memoirist Mary Karr once said, “writing a memoir, if it’s done right, is like knocking yourself out with your own fist.” It’s difficult and especially painful to write about dark, difficult memories. Brooks’ (Professional Writing/Northeastern Univ.) own experience of trying to write a memoir about her father’s death from a secret AIDS infection had been “agonizing” and “terrifying,” so she decided to travel the country to interview and learn from memoirists whose books confronted these subjects head-on. Over and over, the authors told her that these were stories they had to write. Andre Dubus III felt he “had to pull out of the dark and hold up to the light” the story about his difficult relationship with his famous author father. After he finished Townie (2011),“it felt really good….I felt cleansed.” Sue William Silverman’s “raw and profoundly vulnerable” Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You (1996) exposed 14 years of sexual abuse she suffered while her mother remained silent and “complicit.” After poet Mark Doty’s partner of 12 years died from AIDS, he wrote Heaven’s Coast (1996): “I have not been immobilized by grief, but I have certainly carried it with me.” Edwidge Danticat’s “exquisite and heartbreaking” Brother, I’m Dying (2007), about her Haitian father and uncle, is a “powerful witness to the large-scale injustices so many immigrants face upon entering this country.” She told Brooks that it’s the “most beautiful memorial I could have created for [them].” “Gender outlaw” Kate Bornstein’s A Queer and Pleasant Danger recounts “desperately [trying] to be someone she was not” and escaping the Church of Scientology to finally find fulfillment after gender reassignment surgery. Other authors interviewed include Kim Stafford, Richard Blanco, Richard Hoffman, Kyoko Mori, and Jerald Walker.

An inspiring guide to ennobling personal stories that travel to the dark sides of life.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8070-7881-5

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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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.

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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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