Generously illustrated, Mann’s memoir is testimony to photography’s power to evoke tender, lucent portraits of the past.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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HOLD STILL

A MEMOIR WITH PHOTOGRAPHS

A journey of self-discovery begins in family archives.

An invitation to deliver the prestigious Massey lectures at Harvard inspired photographer Mann (Sally Mann: Immediate Family, 2014, etc.) to embark on a search for her past, beginning with boxes stored in her family’s attic. She hoped to find “a payload of southern gothic”: juicy details of “deceit and scandal,” including suicides, fortunes made and lost, and even a murder. Her sources did not disappoint her, and she effectively weaves a “tapestry of fact, memory, and family legend” in this candid and engrossing memoir. An incorrigible child, Mann loved to cavort naked on the Virginia farm where she grew up. Her mother, exasperated, turned over her care to Gee-Gee, the loving African-American woman who served as the family’s housekeeper, cook, and nanny. Mann’s rebellion continued throughout high school, where she discovered a passion for writing and photography that channeled her energies. “I existed in a welter of creativity,” she recalls, “—sleepless, anxious, self-doubting, pressing for both perfection and impiety, like some ungodly cross between a hummingbird and a bulldozer.” Married at 18, she continued her creative life at Bennington College and made photography her vocation. For the next several decades, she “virtually lived in the darkroom,” dealing with “some end-of-tether frustrations” in printing her work. She was “blindsided,” she writes, when she was accused of child abuse and exploitation after the publication of Immediate Family (1992), which included nude photographs of her children. Besides revealing portraits of her parents and Gee-Gee, Mann chronicles the sordid murder-suicide of her husband’s parents; a deranged letter-writer later accused Mann and her husband of the crime. Although committed to photography as an art, Mann is troubled by the medium’s “treacheries”—i.e., its power to displace real memories.

Generously illustrated, Mann’s memoir is testimony to photography’s power to evoke tender, lucent portraits of the past.

Pub Date: May 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-24776-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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

NIGHT

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

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