The rare family scrapbook that isn’t boring to the outsider.



A mother’s collected memories reveal her remarkable life in this work of nonfiction.

Powers (Organic for Health, 2007) brought home her moribund mother Grace to spend her last living days surrounded by the family she adored. Grace had led a long, full life, but her children could not possibly have imagined just how full until after she passes away, and Powers discovered boxes full of her mother’s carefully recorded memories that told the unexpectedly compelling story of Grace’s secret life. While the candid family photographs, legal documents and authentic newspaper clippings help illuminate the reality behind Powers’ sentimental portrait of her mother, “All else,” Powers writes in the foreword, “is as close to true accounts as I could make them.” That leaves Powers’ few elegant pages of introductory prose and, more compellingly, her mother’s journal—which constitutes the bulk of the short book—open to questions of verisimilitude. So be it; despite the liberties Powers may have taken, it’s an enthralling read. Correspondence with a church reveals Grace was adopted at a young age, never able to discover the identity of her biological parents. After the death of her adoptive mother and abuse at the hands of her adoptive stepmother, Grace managed to grow into a sensible, loving wife and mother in a small Ohio town. She and her husband strove for an honest living in the wake of the Great Depression until witnessing a neighbor’s gruesome murder cracked any sense of normalcy. And then came war. Patriotism runs deep throughout Grace’s journal; reprinted letters from World War II offer a frank depiction of life during wartime, both for the soldiers facing combat and for civilians, like Grace, at home sacrificing for their country. Grace’s patriotic sacrifice launches the book’s most stunning revelation—she infiltrated Cold War communist factions as an undercover spy for the FBI. Often the journal entries, particularly those containing the more incredible admissions, read like summaries of profound events rather than a dutiful narration, as if the journal—either because of Grace as writer or Powers as editor—was meant only as an introduction to the deeper story. Perhaps Grace intended to tell her daughter the story herself one day, with the detail it deserves. Now this book will suffice.

The rare family scrapbook that isn’t boring to the outsider.

Pub Date: March 16, 2011

ISBN: 978-1456729561

Page Count: 140

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2011

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.


The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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