A short but powerful amalgam of journalistic rigor and emotional sensitivity.

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The Hidden Life of a Young Woman

In this biography, a woman lives a remarkably independent, productive, and loving life despite a grim medical diagnosis as an infant.

Jonathan Schlesinger and Angelia Edmonton met in 1951 Atlanta, fell deeply in love, and got married. They moved to Philadelphia, where their first child, Joanna, was born in 1954, a month prematurely, weighing in at a mere five pounds. Her parents noticed that one of her eyes sometimes moved in an unusual way, so they shared their concerns with a doctor, who told them that Joanna suffered from irreversible brain damage due to oxygen deprivation. As a result, she experienced seizures and would need to take medication to control them. However, the drug put her in a fuguelike state, and she moved through life as if it was a slow-motion dream. When she turned 5, her parents decided that she needed a level of care that they were ill-prepared to provide, so they brought her to a home outside Philadelphia for mentally impaired children, run by the Sisters’ Order of Saint Mary’s of Providence. She lived there for the next three years, and after she stopped her regimen of medication, she began to live a life that approached normalcy. Then she was moved to the GlenEagles Institute, where her improvement continued to defy expectations. She was athletically active and eventually became a Girl Scout. Finally, she became one of six people chosen to participate in a special university-led program designed to prepare them for the workforce, and she specifically trained to work as a dental assistant. She demonstrated impressive competence and responsibility, forged meaningful relationships, and led a strikingly independent life. Author Slaughter conducted years of meticulous research on Joanna and her family members, including interviews, and his thoroughness shows; in fewer than 100 pages, he paints a full, vivid picture of Joanna’s journey. The story particularly comes alive when he focuses on the nonmedical aspects of her struggle: her openness to love, her fierce sense of self-reliance, and her growing religious faith. The prose is straightforward and unadorned, which allows Joanna’s story to take center stage rather than compete with literary embellishments. This is a poignant, affecting history that will surely inspire readers confronting medical limitations or those who love someone struggling to overcome disability. 

A short but powerful amalgam of journalistic rigor and emotional sensitivity. 

Pub Date: April 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5127-3458-4

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2016

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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.

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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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