Not likely to appeal to everyone, but irascibly charming in its honesty.

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KASHER IN THE RYE

THE TRUE TALE OF A WHITE BOY FROM OAKLAND WHO BECAME A DRUG ADDICT, CRIMINAL, MENTAL PATIENT, AND THEN TURNED 16

A bleak memoir, played for laughs, of growing up poor, Jewish and drugged-out in Oakland, Calif.

Los Angeles–based comedian Kasher encountered enough unusual early trauma to justify both his profession and his acerbic outlook. Both his mother and father were deaf; as a boy, his mother abruptly broke up the family to move to California (“Oakland in the mid-eighties was a very interesting place to be white”), leaving his embittered father to retreat into an ultra-orthodox sect. Like many misfits, Kasher realized early on that class clown provided a potent identity. As an adolescent he took to drug and alcohol abuse with a vengeance, moving quickly from marijuana to LSD to dealing and wannabe gangsterism. He is frank about the appeal of drug abuse to self-loathing, marginalized teenagers: “I walked around the world convinced that I had some private information that had been kept from the rest of the squares in the world.” Kasher is equally honest about his callous treatment of his long-suffering mother and about his antagonistic trips through various rehab programs and special-needs schools. Yet his redemption arc is rather brisk; aware that any opportunity for a future was melting away, he ultimately decided at 16 to give up his atrocious habits on his own. “Why that day was any different, I don’t know,” he writes. “Something had died in me. My will had died. My childhood had died.” Throughout the narrative, Kasher relies on exaggerations, asides to the reader, general crudity and broad ethnic humor rooted in the absurdity of a Jewish adolescent narrator-observer in racially tense Oakland. However, the author provides keen observations, capturing grim yet mordantly funny details about the everyday life of lower-income people living hard lives in decayed urban environments. 

Not likely to appeal to everyone, but irascibly charming in its honesty.

Pub Date: March 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-446-58426-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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