Intelligent, contemplative spiritual memoir by a fine writer with a rich interior world.

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A Spacious Life

MEMOIR OF A MEDITATOR

A young woman writes of her spiritual evolution in an insightful debut memoir.

The “spacious life” of the title refers to the “immeasurable spaciousness” evoked when the author, a model and actress, practices meditation and mindfulness. Doumani was born well-off, “ensconced in the comfort of a heavenly suburbia” in Sydney, Australia, to loving parents (Thai mother, Lebanese father). An “inner restlessness” fueled her spiritual quest. The result here is not a dreary rehashing of her past but a thought-provoking look inward that includes fascinating mystical experiences and dreams. Writing in a strong, clear voice, she describes an inner journey augmented by travel and exposure to other cultures in places like Bangkok and Bangladesh. Her spiritual adventures weren’t as expansive as those of, say, Shirley MacLaine, nor do they veer into cosmic revelations, yet both authors question reality and their individual circumstances. In addition to a mentoring relationship with a Buddhist master, Luang Pu, the author had a series of male friends, three of whom are profiled here: the Italian, the Businessman, and the Fighter. These relationships aren’t portrayed solely as romantic interludes but rather as mirrors of her spiritual process, each representing a particular set of challenges. The Italian, a “livewire” whom she met at university, was possessive and ultimately obsessed with her. The Businessman was given to “maximising opportunities,” a process that didn’t necessarily match Doumani’s wishes (he remained on the sidelines during her cancer scare). The most compelling association was with that of the Fighter, who was in pain due to a freak accident; his physical suffering, sometimes moderated by overmedicating, greatly impacted the author. In time, she came to view relationships as “ultimately ephemeral, like a hologram.” Using established spiritual staples—“Sitting quietly by myself, doing nothing special, and grasping at nothing in particular, that is what the forest taught me”—the author crafts an engaging story, keeping the relationship with self top of mind and ending many chapters with an enticing hook. The result is a tale of heightened awareness and compassion. Despite her Mensa-level IQ, Doumani avoids pomposity, delivering a coherent story grounded in consistent practices and self-awareness.

Intelligent, contemplative spiritual memoir by a fine writer with a rich interior world.

Pub Date: March 18, 2015

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: almer Higgs Pty Ltd.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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

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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

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