Alternately engaging, maddening, hilarious and excessive.



With pop culture as his guide, the head writer for The Onion A.V. Club reflects on his turbulent, angst-ridden youth.

In a tone-setting opening paragraph, Rabin fantasizes about his ideal funeral, which he imagines as a “wildly excessive tribute to me, me, me,” before concluding that “not even death’s sweet release can keep me from being self-indulgent and wasting everyone’s time.” His coming-of-age memoir affirms half this statement: It is self-absorbed, overly self-aware and occasionally self-pitying; it is not, however, a waste of time. Thanks to his acerbic voice and dark humor, the author transforms his miserable childhood and prolonged battles with depression into an improbably entertaining, even uplifting tale. When Rabin was 12, his father left his comfortable governmental job and relocated the family to Chicago, where they quickly tumbled into poverty. With his father unable to care for him, the author spent most of his high-school years in a group home for underprivileged adolescents, where he used pop culture as a refuge from his despair, familial neglect and sexual frustration. While the author’s personal struggles continued at the University of Wisconsin, he also happened to be in the right place at exactly the right time—the upstart satirical newspaper The Onion was still based in the college town. Once he joined the publication’s entertainment division, Rabin was able to put his undying love of pop culture to productive use. Oddly, it is when he begins to write for the A.V. Club that the memoir loses its momentum. His run-ins with celebrities are not particularly insightful, and the lengthy section that he devotes to his ill-fated television show, Movie Club, veers between wide-eyed naivety and condescension toward his fellow participants. Still, Rabin’s raw humor and infectious enthusiasm are more than enough to overcome the narrative dry spots.

Alternately engaging, maddening, hilarious and excessive.

Pub Date: July 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4165-5620-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2009

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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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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...


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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