A strikingly honest, if occasionally repetitious, look at a unique life.




King (Overcoming Oppression, 2017, etc.) presents a memoir of triumph and tragedy.

The author begins by stating that he’s an unemployed, gay, African-American doctor and a “psychic empath.” In 2009, when this book begins, he was not doing well physically, financially, or socially—and he goes on to expound on all these facets of his existence in the pages that follow, which then leap back in time to events that happened well before the author’s birth, including the enslavement of his ancestors. The author spent the bulk of his childhood in Erie, Pennsylvania. His father was also a doctor, and his mother was a professor of mathematics. Although, by outward appearances, the family was successful and upwardly mobile, they were far from content in their circumstances. The author tells of facing immense racism in his daily life; he also says that his older brother would go out of his way to scare him as a child and that his parents “interrogated and chastised [him] for any imperfect behavior.” Nevertheless, the author was able to escape Erie for Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, then Harvard University, both as an undergraduate and a medical student. He then embarked on a career as a physician; in time, he discovered his sexuality, traveled to faraway places, married and divorced a woman whom he characterizes as overbearing, battled alcoholism, and dated a string of difficult men, including one who regularly flew into rages. Mixed into these accounts is a hefty amount of self-analysis as the author reflects on his attempts to obtain “perfection” and his belief in ingrained “slave-based behaviors.” He also states that he views the writing of this book as a form of healing. Over the course of this revealing memoir, the author offers his readers some brutal details, including his experience as a victim of rape. However, later in the book, the author recalls his struggles in the medical field; these accounts include lengthy, vicious dialogues with superiors who claimed, for instance, that the author was taking too much time treating patients. But although King’s stories of his experiences as a physician certainly shed light on his character, his complaints about the profit-driven medical system eventually become repetitive and, at times, over-the-top, as when he asserts that “the chief operating officer and the medical director–CEO, are both mentally ill.” A great portion of this memoir, however, is devoted to the author’s long-term romantic relationships, and they include moments that range from the absurd to the tragic. He describes one especially cold partner as “reptilian” and “not what society can call ‘human’ ”; another had two adult sons who were so hyper-violent that they would be comical if they weren’t so terrifying. It will be difficult for anyone to read this entire memoir and not find themselves surprised on multiple occasions. So many elements of King’s recollections—particularly about his disastrous cohabitations—make this a truly unpredictable tale. 

A strikingly honest, if occasionally repetitious, look at a unique life.

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5442-6443-1

Page Count: 380

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2018

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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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