A memorable story of intriguing people even if the author’s emotional journey doesn’t pack a big punch.



A daughter grapples with loss in this tender memoir of a troubled family.

After debut author Harkin’s father, Jack, contracted a mysterious infection that caused multiple strokes, she took a leave of absence from college in 1996 to return home to Montana and attend to him. Her family wasn’t well-equipped to deal with the sudden illness, she says; her mother, Linda, wasn’t even sure where her husband kept the family’s money. His work as an airline pilot resulted in a childhood of frequent moves and unpredictable living situations; once, the author’s sister, Erica, came home from school to find a note on the door with a new address, signed “Love, Mom.” Still, the family managed to build a treasure trove of memories, vacations, and adventures, as a family dinner ended with Linda pretending to be a lima bean. But running through it all, Harkin writes, was an undercurrent of anxiety. One time in 1983, Linda chillingly imitated the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz until the 8-year-old Harkin cried. Her father also had a longtime affair that loomed over the family and led to more secrets being revealed. As the family worried over whether to take him off life support, an even bigger loss forced the author to hold her siblings close. Harkin lovingly creates portraits of various figures in her life, from their family friend with a “Kentucky twang” to Linda, who becomes the heart of the story. The narrator does a fine job of mining her childhood for sweet stories that contrast with the sour turn that her parents’ marriage takes. The latter half of the memoir, though, comes in a rush, with some epiphanies that seem forced (as when one chapter ends, “We could choose to be a functioning family”). Readers may also wish that the author’s interior life were portrayed as vividly as her memories of others. Still, she honestly shows her family’s flaws and quirks.

A memorable story of intriguing people even if the author’s emotional journey doesn’t pack a big punch.

Pub Date: June 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61296-892-6

Page Count: 204

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2017

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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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