LOST AND FOUND

A WOMAN REVISITS EIGHTH GRADE

The author's memories of early adolescence, as taken from her rediscovered diaries. Israeloff (In Confidence, 1989), a contributing editor at Parents magazine and the mother of two, found her diaries and began reliving her experiences in the eighth grade. A former honors student, Israeloff relates with astonishing accounting skills the exact score on nearly every test she took in that pivotal year. Though the diaries read like the awkward scribblings of a precocious adolescent, Israeloff the grown-up has determined to see something more sinister: the ghost of the success she would have been if she were a boy. ``Rutherford,'' her father's pet name for her, takes on enormous weight and serves as a tired metaphor for the male child Israeloff was not. It is an unfortunate choice. Israeloff's adult musings are forced, and her recollections of the eighth grade are mercilessly mined for evidence of academic deprivation: An item of crude graffiti on one of Israeloff's student-council campaign posters is rendered in heartbreaking terms, although the author admits that she had forgotten the incident until the diary brought it back to her. A long series of A+ papers and other accomplishments contradict the complaints of Israeloff that, as a female, she was overlooked. Vague references to studies showing that women lose academic courage in high school are not borne out in Israeloff's case by the text, which covers her high school years in a few short paragraphs. Israeloff reaches her stride in gentle reminiscences of her father, but her broad generalizations about her home life lack nuance. The obligatory visit to her old school is sadly lifeless, and her amorphous rage at a former doting teacher offers an ugly end to this memoir. The star of her eighth-grade class, devoted as a young girl to logical argument, has produced a narrative stocked with sweeping statements ill supported by facts.

Pub Date: June 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-684-80081-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1996

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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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Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...

MASTERY

Greene (The 33 Strategies of War, 2007, etc.) believes that genius can be learned if we pay attention and reject social conformity.

The author suggests that our emergence as a species with stereoscopic, frontal vision and sophisticated hand-eye coordination gave us an advantage over earlier humans and primates because it allowed us to contemplate a situation and ponder alternatives for action. This, along with the advantages conferred by mirror neurons, which allow us to intuit what others may be thinking, contributed to our ability to learn, pass on inventions to future generations and improve our problem-solving ability. Throughout most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers, and our brains are engineered accordingly. The author has a jaundiced view of our modern technological society, which, he writes, encourages quick, rash judgments. We fail to spend the time needed to develop thorough mastery of a subject. Greene writes that every human is “born unique,” with specific potential that we can develop if we listen to our inner voice. He offers many interesting but tendentious examples to illustrate his theory, including Einstein, Darwin, Mozart and Temple Grandin. In the case of Darwin, Greene ignores the formative intellectual influences that shaped his thought, including the discovery of geological evolution with which he was familiar before his famous voyage. The author uses Grandin's struggle to overcome autistic social handicaps as a model for the necessity for everyone to create a deceptive social mask.

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should beware of the author's quirky, sometimes misleading brush-stroke characterizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02496-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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