Affectionate, with a bracing air of locality—the kind of microhistory that will yield gold for more sweeping history...

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SWEDE

WEEQUAHIC'S GENTLE GIANT

Masin’s portrait of his father, a renowned athlete of northern New Jersey in the ’30s and ’40s.

As historians turn more and more to intimately drawn, tightly focused stories of the Everyman to provide meaning and texture to the progress of time, this biography is just the kind of material they will seek out. Masin has written a loving story of his father, who, like all good fathers, was an exceptional man in his son’s eyes: generous (except with allowances), gentle, attentive and full of quirks and eccentricities. But the senior Masin, known as “Swede,” was also a star athlete—state champion in the shot put, voted most outstanding state player in basketball and All-American in soccer (when he happened to pick up the sport) and captain of three teams in college—as well as humble and a gentleman. So powerful and pervasive was Swede’s image in New Jersey that Philip Roth took him as the starting point for his character Swede Levov in American Pastoral. Like Masin’s father, Roth also graduated from Weequahic High School in Newark, N.J., and it is in drawing that city’s Weequahic section that Masin steps outside the personal and tackles the psychogeographic. He inspects not only the lay of this particular land, but the day-to-day life of his father’s part of town: where he hung out, the street life, school, socializing, food, architecture, theater, sledding in the park, liberal politics and more. Masin also explores how Swede was “this nice Jewish boy, living in a wonderful Jewish neighborhood, with kind Jewish parents,” a kid who rarely gave his parents grief, “but marrying a shiksa, well, that was devastating.” His parents managed to survive the devastation and the book pays nearly as close attention to Estelle’s Italian background as it does to Swede’s; a feisty, outspoken family, though Masin’s most evocative memory is the spaghetti and meatballs. Playfully teasing portrayals of the author’s brother and sisters adds a satisfying completeness to the Swede’s impact.

Affectionate, with a bracing air of locality—the kind of microhistory that will yield gold for more sweeping history projects.

Pub Date: July 14, 2010

ISBN: 978-1440144356

Page Count: 236

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2010

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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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