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The Hidden Life of a Young Woman

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

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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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Awards & Accolades

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


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  • Kirkus Prize
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  • New York Times Bestseller


  • IndieBound Bestseller


  • National Book Award Winner


  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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