Kigel’s emphasis on primary sources is refreshing, and he fashions an instructive work that will be especially useful for...

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BECOMING ABRAHAM LINCOLN

THE COMING OF AGE OF OUR GREATEST PRESIDENT

An intimate biography of young Abraham Lincoln from primary sources—i.e., those who knew him in his formative years.

Lincoln’s Illinois law partner, William Herndon, nine years his junior, was the primary and initial biographer of Lincoln after his death, and while thorough, he was guilty of “myth-making.” In this touching work geared toward students, New York City teacher Kigel (Heav'nly Tidings from the Afric Muse: The Grace and Genius of Phillis Wheatley, 2017, etc.) presents the life of the legendary president up to 25, when he first got elected to the Illinois Assembly. The narrative is comprised exclusively of voices who knew the early Lincoln, such as family and acquaintances in his years in Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois. What emerges from these folksy recollections is a portrait of a young man forged in the harsh reality of frontier life in a family that moved frequently, living in basic log cabins and tending to hardscrabble farms, and where hard labor and little education were the way of life. Moreover, Lincoln was marked early on by the deaths of his newborn baby brother, his mother (when he was 9), and his only sister, who died having her first baby. While known for his height and physical prowess, the young Lincoln was also enamored by books available to the mostly illiterate folks on the frontier, specifically the Bible, Pilgrim’s Progress, Aesop’s Fables, and Robinson Crusoe. His father was insistent his son get “a real eddication.” Lincoln relied on books as his teachers, and he fashioned himself into an inventive storyteller and great entertainer. He also garnered a reputation as a scrupulously honest man, a reputation begun in his early jobs as a ferryman and store clerk. An early trip to New Orleans by steamboat exposed him to the horrors of the slave trade.

Kigel’s emphasis on primary sources is refreshing, and he fashions an instructive work that will be especially useful for younger readers.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5107-1730-5

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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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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