Endearing, affectionate, and often funny reminiscences.

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Potato In A Rice Bowl

A lighthearted debut memoir about a young Colorado mother’s full-on collision with Japanese culture.

In 1962, at the tender age of 24, Keener jumped at the chance to relocate to Tokyo, where her civilian husband, Glen, had been hired to do intelligence work with the U.S. Army. Not one to shy away from adventure, she hit the ground running with two baby boys in her arms and a well-developed sense of fun. It hardly even took the wind out of her sails when, on her first day, she was firmly counseled by Glen’s commanding officer never to ask what her husband was doing: “For sure I would have blabbed stuff I shouldn’t have,” she writes. What follows are her triumphs, mishaps, and gaffes as she spent long periods of time with her boys and acclimated herself to her new country—without so much as a telephone to help with such gargantuan tasks as house-hunting. At one point, she nearly drowned in Tokyo Bay, but she went on to learn to love the Japanese language, sumo wrestling, and local cuisine while also absorbing the niceties of Japanese-style etiquette. Improbably, she eventually became an media star for teaching English on Japanese television: “For criminy sakes, I was as qualified for that position as a ham sandwich,” she cracks. Her career quickly ended, though, when she became pregnant and no longer fit her billing as “a single maiden”: “much to everyone’s relief, I took a leave of absence, bowing out of the job about the time I could no longer bow.” Although Keener devotes more than 400 pages to this frolic down Memory Lane, she displays a jaw-dropping ability to keep readers turning pages. She’s a master of the one-liner, but some of the book’s corny, even archaic-sounding words and phrases (“Phooey!”; “Nanny-nanny-boo-boo!”) may not appeal to everyone. Still, her work here could almost catapult her into the rarefied ranks of such wildly successful writers as Peg Bracken, Majorie Holmes, and Erma Bombeck—even if she has come late to the show.

Endearing, affectionate, and often funny reminiscences.

Pub Date: May 5, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4502-2041-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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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