An inspirational, sharp, and disarmingly humorous account about taekwondo and mental health.

KICKING AND SCREAMING

A MEMOIR OF MADNESS AND MARTIAL ARTS

An organizational development consultant battling mental illness finds hope in martial arts training in this debut memoir.

“To be frank: I’m crazy,” declares Gibson in her prologue, “and my biggest challenges have stemmed from what being crazy makes me do.” Raised in Snyder, Texas, the author describes being “turned inward” as a child, experiencing anxiety that gave way to depression. As a teen, she displayed behavior that she now recognizes had the markings of bipolar disorder, but she only began contemplating suicide after starting college. Reluctant to receive counseling, Gibson figured that she could handle her problems on her own. A successful and fiercely independent “career girl,” she only truly reached out at the age of 31, when a romantic hiccup led to an “epic” breakdown. Alongside finding a therapist, Gibson reconnected with the taekwondo grandmaster who oversaw the dojang where she trained as a child. The author recounts her progression to becoming a black belt in a journey that is punctuated by injury and romantic instability. But through taekwondo, Gibson gained the self-understanding to “kick ass” in other parts of her life. The subject matter of this memoir is understandably dark, with the author candidly describing her lowest moments, such as “drinking whiskey for dinner and sobbing incoherently into the phone” to her “worried parents.” Yet this is countered by a stylistic approach that is refreshingly buoyant and self-aware: “In case anyone thinks the white belt months were a 1980s movie montage of me doing push-ups and high kicks and high-fiving other students set to cheesy inspirational music, think again.” Naturally humorous, Gibson is also capable of elegant, emotionally communicative prose: “The lyrical beauty of the movement, the expressive focus, and the mind-body connection of taekwondo seeped into the marrow of my bones.” Some readers may not take to the author’s casual narrative style. At one point, she instructs them unnecessarily to “flip back to Chapter One if you don’t remember,” but this adds to the affability of her writing. Gibson’s sharp-witted, tenacious personality radiates throughout this spirited book, and her determination should prove contagious, spurring readers to discover a pathway through which they can combat mental illness and discover their true selves.

An inspirational, sharp, and disarmingly humorous account about taekwondo and mental health.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64742-028-4

Page Count: 280

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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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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