Hard choices for an unconventional heroine who wants the magic in her life to be real, not illusory.



In the midst of the 1992 LA riots, a conflicted exotic dancer shambles toward an epiphany about adulthood.

This debut from award-winning poet Carter is an unexpected gift. The story of a stripper, her stoner boyfriend and their dying neighbor as they try to survive the Rodney King riots is not a pretty tale, but it’s told well. The author infuses her period piece with shades of post-punk cynicism and the caustic, abandon-all-hope vibe of the grunge years while drawing characters who fit well into the book's gritty ambiance. Our entree into this sordid world is Gwen, a girl your mother would like, a graduate student and aspiring poet who came to Los Angeles seeking adventure. Unfortunately, she finds herself playing “Stevie,” a mechanically erotic nude dancer at the Century Lounge. She’s no pawn, and Carter goes to great lengths to show how Gwen owns her sexuality but also that it’s a means to an end. Gwen genuinely loves her boyfriend, Leo, a self-described performance artist who dresses as a Revolutionary War soldier—not to busk, but to hock his crappy music demos. Their superqueer neighbor, Count Valiant, adds not only to the ensemble, but also the period vibe, as he’s living, quite dramatically, with AIDS. As Gwen finds she’s pregnant, Leo, living out his Peter Pan arc, decides to march into East LA waving a flag of surrender and dragging his reluctant girlfriend behind him. “That’s what you did when your best friend was dying and your boyfriend was planning a stunt that, were he to follow it through, could get him arrested or beaten or killed the very next morning,” Carter writes. “That’s what you did when your city was burning, the city in which you’d lived and dreamed and loved; that’s what you did when you had just this night.” Poetic but rarely uplifting, Carter's novel is a fable for those who remember the bad old days.

Hard choices for an unconventional heroine who wants the magic in her life to be real, not illusory.

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-229237-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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