A lucid, unexpectedly uplifting, and affecting celebration of love that finds hope in despair.

THE ACTUAL DANCE

LOVE'S ULTIMATE JOURNEY THROUGH CANCER

A husband’s love for his wife intensifies after she is diagnosed with breast cancer in this memoir.

In 2000, Simon and his wife, Susan, were in their 34th year of marriage, a moment the author describes as “a perfect time of our lives.” That winter, their lives changed indelibly when Susan was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. Simon, having already experienced the death of his mother-in-law at the age of 56 from the same illness, girded himself for the worst. Whereas Susan, then 54, maintained a positive mental attitude, the author fell into depression and at times was afraid he was losing his mind. The memoir charts Susan’s journey, including her mastectomy and aggressive chemotherapy. But the focus is on Simon’s own struggles, describing out-of-body experiences in which he felt he had visited an imaginary ballroom. When his therapist suggested that these experiences brought dignity to a terrible moment, the author recognized his virtual ballroom as a sanctuary. This breakthrough inspired Simon to write and produce a play about his experience of his wife’s illness. The author describes with emotional clarity how uncomfortable procedures, such as administering an injection to Susan, surprisingly became acts of love: “I discover that I can do things I never thought possible and which creates a deep intimacy. Feeling, touching, and noticing are now different from before.” Simon adopts the same candid precision in describing his visions and his bid to understand them: “As I wander around this brilliant ballroom, I am filled with awe. The ballroom sits empty, hollow, pregnant with purpose and readiness. I am the only one here.” Some readers may feel that the author is unnecessarily wordy on occasion: “Wrongness extends beyond the here and now into the eternal, the stuff of primordial creation.” This can be overlooked given Simon’s dazzling eloquence when communicating his deepest fear of losing Susan: “This fear is not just about living alone; the fear is about being alone. The anticipation of losing part of myself will create an existential aloneness in the universe.” Happily, this moving book suggests that people’s fears are not always manifested in reality in quite the way they anticipated.

A lucid, unexpectedly uplifting, and affecting celebration of love that finds hope in despair.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73790-972-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Actual Dance LLC

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2021

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

TANQUERAY

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 28, 2022

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The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

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I'M GLAD MY MOM DIED

The former iCarly star reflects on her difficult childhood.

In her debut memoir, titled after her 2020 one-woman show, singer and actor McCurdy (b. 1992) reveals the raw details of what she describes as years of emotional abuse at the hands of her demanding, emotionally unstable stage mom, Debra. Born in Los Angeles, the author, along with three older brothers, grew up in a home controlled by her mother. When McCurdy was 3, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though she initially survived, the disease’s recurrence would ultimately take her life when the author was 21. McCurdy candidly reconstructs those in-between years, showing how “my mom emotionally, mentally, and physically abused me in ways that will forever impact me.” Insistent on molding her only daughter into “Mommy’s little actress,” Debra shuffled her to auditions beginning at age 6. As she matured and starting booking acting gigs, McCurdy remained “desperate to impress Mom,” while Debra became increasingly obsessive about her daughter’s physical appearance. She tinted her daughter’s eyelashes, whitened her teeth, enforced a tightly monitored regimen of “calorie restriction,” and performed regular genital exams on her as a teenager. Eventually, the author grew understandably resentful and tried to distance herself from her mother. As a young celebrity, however, McCurdy became vulnerable to eating disorders, alcohol addiction, self-loathing, and unstable relationships. Throughout the book, she honestly portrays Debra’s cruel perfectionist personality and abusive behavior patterns, showing a woman who could get enraged by everything from crooked eyeliner to spilled milk. At the same time, McCurdy exhibits compassion for her deeply flawed mother. Late in the book, she shares a crushing secret her father revealed to her as an adult. While McCurdy didn’t emerge from her childhood unscathed, she’s managed to spin her harrowing experience into a sold-out stage act and achieve a form of catharsis that puts her mind, body, and acting career at peace.

The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982185-82-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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