Tough and challenging ideas couched in disarming prose.

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OPEN HOUSE

OF FAMILY, FRIENDS, FOOD, PIANO LESSONS, AND THE SEARCH FOR A ROOM OF MY OWN

Legal scholar and Nation columnist Williams offers a stimulating mix of reminiscences and finely honed arguments as she tries to answer the question a friend once posed: Who is the one person she could never be?

Like most of her writings (Seeing a Color-Blind Future, 1998, etc.), this is fundamentally a work of serious intent, even though the illustrative anecdotes are often charming as well as apt. Employing the beguiling image of an open house whose rooms she associates with friends, family, and memories, Williams grapples in “The Boudoir,” “The Kitchen,” “The Outhouse,” and other essays with big questions—race, identity, burgeoning technology—while setting them firmly in the context of her own life. The story of how Great-aunt Mary passed for white when she married a Boston lawyer, for example, seems to Williams an example of how racial and cultural mixing, “nonconformist, embarrassing, and once illegal,” are nonetheless inherent aspects of American society. Her experience learning to play the piano in her 50s occasions recollections of the hostile reaction she received when asked to give the Reith Lectures on the BBC. Described as a militant black feminist who hates whites, she thinks such characterizations of black women are still very common on campus and in the law. Williams ponders the importance of O, the Oprah Magazine (maybe “romantic humanitarianism isn’t such a bad thing”); delineates her reactions to her son’s bout with Kawasaki disease (“I feel it as kind of permanent inner snowstorm”); and elucidates the significance of the names African-Americans gave their children after slavery was abolished, suggesting that some were intended to disguise their origins so that former owners could not find them. In school and in the wider world, she finds, African-Americans constantly battle stereotypes that lead whites to view them as impostors—or the help.

Tough and challenging ideas couched in disarming prose.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2004

ISBN: 0-374-11407-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2004

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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

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.

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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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