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HOMELESS TEEN TO ACHIEVING THE ENTREPRENEUR DREAM

A harrowing but ultimately inspiring remembrance with skillful prose.

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A girl leaves home at 16 and eventually becomes an acclaimed singer and owner of a thriving business in this memoir.

Miller opens her debut book with a terrifying sequence in 1987, when she was a teenager: On Christmas Day, she writes, her mother brandished a 12-inch knife and threatened to kill her. Miller’s vivid writing makes the scene feel real and engaging: “She chases me from the kitchen to the living room, waving the blade and cursing as a hundred tiny lights twinkle from our tree.” That mix of frightening and beautiful imagery is on display throughout this book,which follows Miller from her days of struggling in Des Moines, Iowa, to her later success in San Francisco. After the Christmas incident, Miller was briefly homeless; she got a restaurant job but continued to keep up her schoolwork and study the violin. A music scholarship led her to Iowa State University in 1989, she writes, where she met her future husband, an architect; she dropped out but later enrolled at Des Moines’ Drake University. There, Miller began to find her voice as a singer. She moved to San Francisco, had a daughter at age 23, went to work as a graphic designer at an ad agency, and developed impressive management skills along the way. She and her husband divorced, but by then, her singing—she performed at weddings and other events in the Bay Area—had caught the attention of the likes of singer Frederica von Stade and songwriter Bobby Sharp (writer of the Ray Charles hit “Unchain My Heart”). Eventually, she recorded Sharp’s songs on her own record label and received good reviews in major newspapers. Overall, this is a memoir that begins bleakly and ends triumphantly, with Miller the head of a thriving music and special events company and making beautiful music on the side. The author takes readers along with her for the entire ride, and while she’s doing it, she not only bares her soul, but also shares useful life lessons that readers may take to heart.

A harrowing but ultimately inspiring remembrance with skillful prose.

Pub Date: March 22, 2022

ISBN: 979-8985600223

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Poignant Press

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2022

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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TANQUERAY

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

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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 27, 2022

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