A remembrance with a powerful message about strength and recovery, hampered by awkward execution.



A memoir of healing from trauma and addiction from a well-known West Coast political figure.

In 2017, Davis, then the wife of former California attorney general and treasurer Bill Lockyer, was arrested on suspicion of domestic abuse; she eventually was ordered by a judge to attend 180 days of mandatory Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. She was a famous figure in local politics; she’d resigned from the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in 2012, after she revealed her struggles with addiction to alcohol and narcotics, so the arrest attracted media interest. Here, she takes to pen and paper to reclaim her story in her own words. Davis, the daughter of a renowned civil rights attorney, earned a number of accolades and held multiple offices, including president of the Santa Ana Unified School District Board of Trustees, before marrying Lockyer. Davis’ struggles with addiction became fodder for scandal-hungry local news outlets, she says, and she fell victim to media shaming. With admirable candor, she shares a story of resilience, delving into childhood and adult traumas, including a nearly fatal car accident and difficulties involving a stalker, and tells how she worked to overcome intense feelings of “shame, fear, and resentment.” Davis is an open and unwavering narrator who presents readers with explicit descriptions of sexual assault, eating disorders, suicidal ideation, and substance abuse. The work touches on issues of privacy, motherhood, injustice, and mental health, including important criticisms of how addiction is criminalized and misunderstood. However, with such a wide range of topics, the narrative can sometimes feel unfocused. It’s written in the form of letters to her sons, which is a wonderfully evocative choice, but the missives become sidetracked in winding asides. Diary entries, notes, and letters-within-letters are scattered throughout most chapters, and it can feel as if the author had momentarily forgotten that the book is intended to address her children directly. Also, in one of the memoir’s most emotionally charged moments, she includes what appear to be unattributed lyrics from a Disney-film song(“Know Who You Are” from 2016’s Moana).

A remembrance with a powerful message about strength and recovery, hampered by awkward execution.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1087994413

Page Count: 354

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2021

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A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

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The Harvard historian and Texas native demonstrates what the holiday means to her and to the rest of the nation.

Initially celebrated primarily by Black Texans, Juneteenth refers to June 19, 1865, when a Union general arrived in Galveston to proclaim the end of slavery with the defeat of the Confederacy. If only history were that simple. In her latest, Gordon-Reed, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and numerous other honors, describes how Whites raged and committed violence against celebratory Blacks as racism in Texas and across the country continued to spread through segregation, Jim Crow laws, and separate-but-equal rationalizations. As Gordon-Reed amply shows in this smooth combination of memoir, essay, and history, such racism is by no means a thing of the past, even as Juneteenth has come to be celebrated by all of Texas and throughout the U.S. The Galveston announcement, notes the author, came well after the Emancipation Proclamation but before the ratification of the 13th Amendment. Though Gordon-Reed writes fondly of her native state, especially the strong familial ties and sense of community, she acknowledges her challenges as a woman of color in a state where “the image of Texas has a gender and a race: “Texas is a White man.” The author astutely explores “what that means for everyone who lives in Texas and is not a White man.” With all of its diversity and geographic expanse, Texas also has a singular history—as part of Mexico, as its own republic from 1836 to 1846, and as a place that “has connections to people of African descent that go back centuries.” All of this provides context for the uniqueness of this historical moment, which Gordon-Reed explores with her characteristic rigor and insight.

A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63149-883-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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An engaging childhood memoir and a deeply affectionate tribute to the author’s parents.


The bestselling author recalls her childhood and her family’s wartime experiences.

Readers of Winspear’s popular Maisie Dobbs mystery series appreciate the London investigator’s canny resourcefulness and underlying humanity as she solves her many cases. Yet Dobbs had to overcome plenty of hardships in her ascent from her working-class roots. Part of the appeal of Winspear’s Dobbs series are the descriptions of London and the English countryside, featuring vividly drawn particulars that feel like they were written with firsthand knowledge of that era. In her first book of nonfiction, the author sheds light on the inspiration for Dobbs and her stories as she reflects on her upbringing during the 1950s and ’60s. She focuses much attention on her parents’ lives and their struggles supporting a family, as they chose to live far removed from their London pasts. “My parents left the bombsites and memories of wartime London for an openness they found in the country and on the land,” writes Winspear. As she recounts, each of her parents often had to work multiple jobs, which inspired the author’s own initiative, a trait she would apply to the Dobbs character. Her parents recalled grueling wartime experiences as well as stories of the severe battlefield injuries that left her grandfather shell-shocked. “My mother’s history,” she writes, “became my history—probably because I was young when she began telling me….Looking back, her stories—of war, of abuse at the hands of the people to whom she and her sisters had been billeted when evacuated from London, of seeing the dead following a bombing—were probably too graphic for a child. But I liked listening to them.” Winspear also draws distinctive portraits of postwar England, altogether different from the U.S., where she has since settled, and her unsettling struggles within the rigid British class system.

An engaging childhood memoir and a deeply affectionate tribute to the author’s parents.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64129-269-6

Page Count: 314

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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