A timid, uncontroversial look at one of the most controversial, outspoken female musicians in history.

READ REVIEW

PRINCESS NOIRE

THE TUMULTUOUS REIGN OF NINA SIMONE

By-the-numbers biography of irascible jazz singer Nina Simone (1933–2003).

Cohodas (Queen: The Life and Music of Dinah Washington, 2004, etc.) culls his research mostly from Simone’s autobiography, newspaper clippings and other secondhand sources, creating a cut-and-paste patchwork that only skims the surface of the singer’s artistic persona and never gives a satisfying sense of the private woman behind the public performer. However, early chapters isolate certain important factors that would have undeniable and increasingly negative repercussions throughout Simone’s 40-plus-year career. As a teenager, the classically trained Simone (formerly Eunice Waymon) was accepted into Juilliard but rejected by the über-prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Cohodas mildly suggests that this rejection burned its way into Simone’s subconscious where it partly metamorphosed into lifelong resentment—and thus, a compensatory overinflated sense of self. What began as activist zeal and a positive, healthy sense of racial pride swelled into mean-spirited public racial divisiveness. This behavioral shift took place, ironically, just as she began to find more popular acceptance and financial success after years of struggling in small clubs and racking up anemic album-sales figures. The author’s obvious attempt at a conservatively objective take on Simone’s life is admirable, but Cohodas never deals with why Simone’s increasingly erratic, narcissistic—and often downright unprofessional—behavior onstage never seemed to have significant negative financial consequences or elicit any serious career-damaging backlash. Simone continued to pull in huge fees for her concerts well into her waning years just before her death in 2003. Although Cohodas gives the reader a pleasingly vivid sense of what a typical live performance was like, this is anything but a comprehensive psychological portrait of the offstage Nina Simone.

A timid, uncontroversial look at one of the most controversial, outspoken female musicians in history.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-375-42401-4

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more