DREAMING WITH HIS EYES OPEN

THE LIFE OF DIEGO RIVERA

Vast in scope and detailed in execution, this biography evokes the artist with an ambitiousness he surely would have recognized. Most people recall Diego Rivera as a painter of complex, highly symbolic and politically charged murals; few know he was equally inventive with his own life. In writing this biography—the first of Rivera in some 35 years—Marnham has undertaken a formidable challenge: pulling apart fact and fantasy. Rivera’s own friend, Bertram Wolfe (who wrote the only other biography existent) referred to the lies Rivera told as the “labyrinth of fables.” The artist claimed, for example, that at age 11 he enlisted as the youngest soldier in the Mexican army and that as an art student in Mexico City, he fell in with a crowd of medical students who regularly dined on the flesh of their cadavers. Marnham does an excellent job debunking these myths. In their place, he offers a compelling—and even somewhat sympathetic—portrait of Rivera as a talented, hardworking young painter who evolved into a fervent communist and blustering egomaniac. His appetites were huge; so was his ambition: Rivera was powered by a desire to make paintings with relevance to Mexico’s political present as well as its past and future. To his credit, Marnham skillfully describes the complex spheres of power, influence, idealism, and corruption that influenced the communist movement in the 1920s and the artist himself. Nor does he slight Rivera’s emotional life: he duly notes virtually all of Rivera’s known paramours and wives (Frida Kahlo was, after all, his third). But somehow, Marnham never quite manages to convey the strange passion that must have bound Kahlo to this huge, fleshy, forceful, adulterous man. Their interaction, while grounded in their art, seems clinical: dependent and passionate, but distant. Marnham excels as a biographer of history and personality, less so as a biographer of creativity and obsession. But all of those qualities were integral to Rivera’s life.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 1998

ISBN: 0-679-43042-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1998

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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 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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BECOMING

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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