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A STORY OF KARMA

FINDING LOVE AND TRUTH IN THE LOST VALLEY OF THE HIMALAYA

An intriguing tale that entwines exploration and education.

A spiritual travelogue sparked by a voyage of discovery in the Himalayas.

Canadian author Schauch’s nonfiction debut opens in 2012 in the high, snow-swept wilds of northern Nepal. There, he and his wife, Chantal,and their two Nepalesefriends and guides, IC and Ngawang, were hiking and exploring when Schauch spotted a peculiar mountain on a map and was immediately fascinated. This wasn’t just any mountain, he assures his readers: “It was the mountain. A perfect pyramid from its southwest aspect, with sheer faces and a striking ridgeline that snaked its way to a spear-tipped summit piercing both cloud and sky. It was a mountain out of a storybook.” Schauch and his wife led a small group, including a photographer, a painter, and a musician,into the Himalayas, but their expedition was far more than work to the author, who’s always considered Nepal a mystical place: “I didn't want to escape intensity but to dive into it,” he writes, “and the mountains were my portal.” In the seldom-visited valley of Nar Phu, they met a 7-year-old girl named Karma whose intelligence and inquisitiveness impressed Schauch and his wife, prompting them to help her get a formal education. This turned out to be a complicated procedure involving not just finding a Nepalese school, but also the right school—one that, among other things, would honor Karma’s traditional Buddhist beliefs. The bulk of the book goes on to tell the combined stories of the couple and the child.

Schauch has a lively and involving narrative voice, and he’s adept at conveying the combination of detail and wonder that one looks for in the best travel writing. He draws the reader smoothly into his dual narratives, and he handles both of them with skill. His choice to ground a good deal of the story in the relatively mundane environs of his home in the Vancouver area is ultimately a wise one, as it gives the more extravagant details of his overseas travelogue more color by contrast. The account of the long and complex process of securing an education for Karma is unexpectedly compelling, as are Schauch’s broader observations on the subject: “We in the West remain ignorant of how fortunate we are,” he writes at one such point. “Our children are taught to dream as big as they want.” Along the way, the author manages to work a large and well-defined cast of supporting players into the story, and he places the bulk of the narrative between two mountaineering-adventure tales, which works effectively. In addition, he shows that he has a good ear for intriguing conversation and a fine sense of pacing, and although some of his social insights can be a bit narrow—for example, he never notes that, even in the most prosperous countries, there exists even greater poverty than what Karma experienced in Nepal—his sweeping sense of adventure never deserts him. Fans of travel writing and family narratives will appreciate this work.

An intriguing tale that entwines exploration and education.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77160-467-3

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Rocky Mountain Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

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TANQUERAY

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

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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 27, 2022

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LOVE, PAMELA

A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.

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The iconic model tells the story of her eventful life.

According to the acknowledgments, this memoir started as "a fifty-page poem and then grew into hundreds of pages of…more poetry." Readers will be glad that Anderson eventually turned to writing prose, since the well-told anecdotes and memorable character sketches are what make it a page-turner. The poetry (more accurately described as italicized notes-to-self with line breaks) remains strewn liberally through the pages, often summarizing the takeaway or the emotional impact of the events described: "I was / and still am / an exceptionally / easy target. / And, / I'm proud of that." This way of expressing herself is part of who she is, formed partly by her passion for Anaïs Nin and other writers; she is a serious maven of literature and the arts. The narrative gets off to a good start with Anderson’s nostalgic memories of her childhood in coastal Vancouver, raised by very young, very wild, and not very competent parents. Here and throughout the book, the author displays a remarkable lack of anger. She has faced abuse and mistreatment of many kinds over the decades, but she touches on the most appalling passages lightly—though not so lightly you don't feel the torment of the media attention on the events leading up to her divorce from Tommy Lee. Her trip to the pages of Playboy, which involved an escape from a violent fiance and sneaking across the border, is one of many jaw-dropping stories. In one interesting passage, Julian Assange's mother counsels Anderson to desexualize her image in order to be taken more seriously as an activist. She decided that “it was too late to turn back now”—that sexy is an inalienable part of who she is. Throughout her account of this kooky, messed-up, enviable, and often thrilling life, her humility (her sons "are true miracles, considering the gene pool") never fails her.

A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2023

ISBN: 9780063226562

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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