A poignant, relevant synthesis of cultural studies and true-crime drama.




A compact, thoughtful debut addressing violence, immigrant identity, and the long shadow of the Vietnam War.

Rekdal (English/Univ. of Utah), who received the Association of Writers & Writing Programs Award for Creative Nonfiction, begins with a vicious attack in Salt Lake City by a homeless Vietnamese refugee, Kiet Thanh Ly, who stabbed random white men while shouting “You killed my people!” The author argues that the perpetrator represents a broader “disturbed appropriation of the war and its aftershocks.” “When I read about Ly’s case,” writes Rekdal, “some part of me saw his crime as a brutal way to counteract that invisibility, to kill the ideal that he could never achieve.” From there, she blends aspects of personal narrative with a consideration of the nature of survival, as experienced both by often traumatized refugees and by Ly’s victims, as well as a social history of how the Vietnamese re-established their own identities after trauma, both in Vietnam and in America, where nearly 1 million arrived in the postwar years. “To outsiders,” she writes, “the Vietnamese who resettled in the United States look like a success story continually in the making.” Yet, Rekdal argues that disturbing stories like that of Ly or the perpetrators of a grisly 1991 appliance-store massacre demonstrate that refugee trauma can be passed along biologically, as hypothesized about descendants of Holocaust survivors. The author effectively uses interviews with various people in constructing this discussion, including Ly’s victims and other refugees who knew Ly before the attack. One noted that the community’s difficult experiences “came not from war or relocation, but from the long and sometimes failed process of assimilation.” Her writing about Vietnam (where she traveled) as a newly evolved environment and her family’s experience with identity in the face of war (an uncle won a Bronze Star in Vietnam) all feels authentic and effective, although her discussion of the violent flashpoint at the book’s center could use a clearer interpretive focus.

A poignant, relevant synthesis of cultural studies and true-crime drama.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8203-5117-9

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Univ. of Georgia

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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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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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.


The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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