VAGABOND PRINCESS

THE GREAT ADVENTURES OF GULBADAN

Finally, a serious consideration of Gulbadan’s achievement, long “sidelined by modern historians.”

A historian of India reveals the lush world of a 16th-century Mughal princess and her extraordinary pilgrimage to Mecca in 1578.

Lal, a professor of South Asian studies and author of Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan, brings us the fascinating story of Gulbadan Begum (1523-1603), daughter of Babur, founder of the Mughal Empire. In her position, she became a valuable literary witness to this rich period of Indian history. Deeply immersed in the early nomadic lifestyle of the court, which “inhabited the urbanity of Persian culture,” Gulbadan, at age 6, moved from the royal household in Kabul to Agra when Babur subdued Hindustan and needed “extensive settlement in this new land.” Raised by several of the emperor’s wives, within a deeply erudite and warlike culture, Gulbadan suffered the death of her father in 1530 and witnessed the beginning of the rule of her nephew Akbar, whose long reign (as a contemporary of Queen Elizabeth I) achieved the apotheosis of Mughal power and glory in India. Akbar permitted Gulbadan and a dozen other aristocratic women to travel the dangerous pilgrimage route to Mecca, where they caused such a sensation that Sultan Murad III of Turkey, custodian of the holy sites, ultimately evicted them. The entourage then wandered for four mysterious years, which Lal tracks through Gulbadan’s own book, which she called Conditions in the Age of Humayun Badshah. The author’s impressive scholarship encompasses Gulbadan’s immense influences and distinctive style, and she successfully raises this “audacious and unclassifiable” account of a keen observer and chronicler of her age into the literary ranks it deserves. Only one copy of this work survives, translated by Annette Beveridge, “a British colonial-era scholar,” in the 1890s. Lal also includes a helpful cast of characters at the beginning.

Finally, a serious consideration of Gulbadan’s achievement, long “sidelined by modern historians.”

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2024

ISBN: 9780300251272

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2024

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  • New York Times Bestseller

TANQUERAY

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

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A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

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LOVE, PAMELA

A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.

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The iconic model tells the story of her eventful life.

According to the acknowledgments, this memoir started as "a fifty-page poem and then grew into hundreds of pages of…more poetry." Readers will be glad that Anderson eventually turned to writing prose, since the well-told anecdotes and memorable character sketches are what make it a page-turner. The poetry (more accurately described as italicized notes-to-self with line breaks) remains strewn liberally through the pages, often summarizing the takeaway or the emotional impact of the events described: "I was / and still am / an exceptionally / easy target. / And, / I'm proud of that." This way of expressing herself is part of who she is, formed partly by her passion for Anaïs Nin and other writers; she is a serious maven of literature and the arts. The narrative gets off to a good start with Anderson’s nostalgic memories of her childhood in coastal Vancouver, raised by very young, very wild, and not very competent parents. Here and throughout the book, the author displays a remarkable lack of anger. She has faced abuse and mistreatment of many kinds over the decades, but she touches on the most appalling passages lightly—though not so lightly you don't feel the torment of the media attention on the events leading up to her divorce from Tommy Lee. Her trip to the pages of Playboy, which involved an escape from a violent fiance and sneaking across the border, is one of many jaw-dropping stories. In one interesting passage, Julian Assange's mother counsels Anderson to desexualize her image in order to be taken more seriously as an activist. She decided that “it was too late to turn back now”—that sexy is an inalienable part of who she is. Throughout her account of this kooky, messed-up, enviable, and often thrilling life, her humility (her sons "are true miracles, considering the gene pool") never fails her.

A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2023

ISBN: 9780063226562

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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