An exemplary contribution to the recent literature on the fraught history of the Shoah.

PLUNDER

A MEMOIR OF FAMILY PROPERTY AND NAZI TREASURE

In a literate, constantly surprising quest, the grandson of a Holocaust survivor returns to Poland to lay claim to the things of the past.

Early on, Kaiser writes of the “pit stops in the obituary” of his late paternal grandfather, who died in 1977. The author knew that he was born in Poland, survived the Holocaust, and was the sole member of his family to have lived through the terror. Kaiser traveled to Sosnowiec, in south-central Poland, not just to search out family history, but also to explore his grandfather’s claim to family property seized by Nazis. The latter journey took him deep inside the workings of the Polish legal system, with numerous false leads and misinformation throwing him off the trail. It didn’t help that the Kraków lawyer he hired, nicknamed “The Killer,” wasn’t exactly deft with the requisite paperwork. When the author located what he thought was the family property, he encountered a longtime resident who told him, “This is my family’s house.” Kaiser thought to himself, “it wasn’t said defensively or threateningly, he only meant to show off his English,” but it became clear to him that a successful claim would displace others, presenting one of many moral quandaries. Along his path, the author learned about his grandfather’s cousin, who also survived the Nazi occupation, working as a slave laborer in a mysterious tunnel complex that the Nazis had built even as World War II was turning against them. Kaiser’s parallel quest then took him into the concentration camps, sometimes accompanied by treasure hunters who used his relative’s memoir as a guidebook to hidden Nazi loot. Of a piece with Anne-Marie O’Connor’s The Lady in Gold (2012), Kaiser’s story approaches the conclusion on an unsettled note that, he laments, would be simpler to resolve if he were writing a novel and not nonfiction—though it does end on a cliffhanger worthy of a thriller.

An exemplary contribution to the recent literature on the fraught history of the Shoah.

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-328-50803-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

I'M GLAD MY MOM DIED

The former iCarly star reflects on her difficult childhood.

In her debut memoir, titled after her 2020 one-woman show, singer and actor McCurdy (b. 1992) reveals the raw details of what she describes as years of emotional abuse at the hands of her demanding, emotionally unstable stage mom, Debra. Born in Los Angeles, the author, along with three older brothers, grew up in a home controlled by her mother. When McCurdy was 3, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though she initially survived, the disease’s recurrence would ultimately take her life when the author was 21. McCurdy candidly reconstructs those in-between years, showing how “my mom emotionally, mentally, and physically abused me in ways that will forever impact me.” Insistent on molding her only daughter into “Mommy’s little actress,” Debra shuffled her to auditions beginning at age 6. As she matured and starting booking acting gigs, McCurdy remained “desperate to impress Mom,” while Debra became increasingly obsessive about her daughter’s physical appearance. She tinted her daughter’s eyelashes, whitened her teeth, enforced a tightly monitored regimen of “calorie restriction,” and performed regular genital exams on her as a teenager. Eventually, the author grew understandably resentful and tried to distance herself from her mother. As a young celebrity, however, McCurdy became vulnerable to eating disorders, alcohol addiction, self-loathing, and unstable relationships. Throughout the book, she honestly portrays Debra’s cruel perfectionist personality and abusive behavior patterns, showing a woman who could get enraged by everything from crooked eyeliner to spilled milk. At the same time, McCurdy exhibits compassion for her deeply flawed mother. Late in the book, she shares a crushing secret her father revealed to her as an adult. While McCurdy didn’t emerge from her childhood unscathed, she’s managed to spin her harrowing experience into a sold-out stage act and achieve a form of catharsis that puts her mind, body, and acting career at peace.

The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982185-82-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

Did you like this book?

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

TANQUERAY

A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2022

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more