An uplifting, unconventional, and deeply imaginative remembrance.

THE TOWER PRINCESS

A FAIRY TALE LIVED

A communications executive with debilitating pain finds comfort and self-understanding in fairy tales in this memoir.

In 1993, after Tocher injured her back, she was forced to close her Toronto-based communications firm. She suffered for a further seven years with chronic pain without successful treatment, and she was on the brink of what she calls “dangerous depression” when she chose an unconventional way to help herself. Tocher’s interest in fairy tales was first piqued in 1981 after she attended a storytelling event featuring Irish bard Alice Kane. She developed such a great love for the wisdom in such stories that she looked to the folklore genre for solace in her time of need. In these pages, she focuses particularly on retelling stories of tower princesses, such as Rapunzel, while drawing parallels between their plights and her own: “Chronic pain had put me in a tower, and I often described my body as a prison of bones.” Tocher introduces the reader to a world of mythical creatures—such as fairy godmothers, gnomes, and dragons—which inform her inner world, while also reporting “concurrent events” of her “outer life.” As the author battles with the pain of what was later diagnosed as fibromyalgia, she draws upon the “radical, restorative power” of old, overlooked stories and ultimately finds comfort in this “mirror world.” Along the way, this memoir tantalizingly skirts the gossamer divide between fantasy and reality, as when the author describes visions she had, such as one of Mother Earth prostrate and unconscious.

Tocher’s approach to storytelling effectively captures the playfulness of classic fairy tales but adds a contemporary zing. For example, here’s her description of a character named Gothel, whom some readers may know from the Disney film Tangled: “Dame Gothel is in a real funk. She sits in her parlor on her massive walnut chair, holding her knobby knees to her chest….She bites her nails and mutters to herself, her eyes searching the room, searching everywhere.” Tocher’s writing style recaptures the delight of hearing timeless stories as a child but also delivers a thoughtful and deeply personal close reading of such tales and their philosophical messages: “I was Dame Gothel…trying to force natural things into models of perfection that they themselves couldn’t possibly attain.” The memoir also shares simple but timely advice, as in a passage told in the voice of a fairy godmother: “Do not get caught between the mirrors. You cannot be one person on the inside and another on the outside.” Some readers may consider such fantastical elements in a memoir to be a way of evading the truth. But it this case, readers learn a great deal about Tocher’s deepest hopes and dreams through her fairy-story interpretations, which she employs as a “mirror for the soul.” This book does not purport to remedy physical pain, but it does demonstrate how fairy tales can help promote self-understanding and lighten one’s emotional burden—and it’s a true joy to read as it does so.

An uplifting, unconventional, and deeply imaginative remembrance.

Pub Date: May 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-9738776-0-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Wonderlit Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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

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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

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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

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