Compassion and empathy inform these gracefully wrought essays.

A thoughtful collection about how writing essays “is to be haunted by our own lies.”

In the title piece, Tisdale (Women of the Way: Discovering 2,500 Years of Buddhist Wisdom, 2006, etc.) wrestles with “the ethical dilemma of writing about people who have no say in what we write.” This question seems especially urgent when she writes about her family: her father, an industrial arts teacher, volunteer firefighter, and alcoholic; her mother, who taught music; and her brother and sister, with whom she has strained relationships. Her sister, she writes, “is especially angry about my newest book,” in which she feels unjustly portrayed, “and she is also just angry.” “What is fair for me to say about others?” asks the author. Truth or lies, she believes, are “all just stories; like snow falling, they cover everything up. Family, for most of us, includes lifelong agreements about what is not said.” Many essays focus on Tisdale’s three children, especially her middle son, a rebellious teenager with “a brief career as a juvenile delinquent.” The author meditates on the “stupefying losses” of watching her children outgrow babyhood and the heady responsibility of being “the giver and taker of the world” to them. Some essays discuss her experiences as a nurse. Outstanding among them is a beautiful, quietly meditative piece on her work at an abortion clinic where “weary, grim moments” are countered by her feeling that she offers “solidness” to women in need of her strength. Abortion, she writes, is “merciful violence” that requires “a willingness to live with conflict, fearlessness, and grief.” Less moving is a piece set in an oncology unit, in which reportage overwhelms narrative. Tisdale also looks at women’s obsession with thinness; the phenomenon of Disneyland; and the culture of high school, where the atmosphere is “like some three-dimensional model of chaos theory.”

Compassion and empathy inform these gracefully wrought essays.

Pub Date: April 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9904370-8-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hawthorne Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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