An incendiary, serpentine report on criminal manipulation of staggering proportions.

DON'T CALL IT A CULT

THE SHOCKING STORY OF KEITH RANIERE AND THE WOMEN OF NXIVM

How a treacherous cult amassed a following under the guise of self-improvement.

Vancouver-based investigative journalist Berman front-loads her startling, comprehensive exposé on the NXIVM group with key information on how the association became popular yet remained elusive to law enforcement. She shares interview material from several members of a large cast of characters, including Clare and Sara Bronfman, heirs to the Seagram’s fortune who funded the organization for years (Clare is currently in prison). Berman tracks NXIVM “Vanguard” Keith Raniere’s history as an Amway distributor–turned–pyramid-sales executive. In the 1980s, he joined forces with former nurse Nancy Salzman (known as “Prefect”), and the duo promoted training and coaching programs geared toward women’s empowerment. Using a philosophical playbook influenced by Scientology and other similar groups, NXIVM began amassing members, each of whom was charged with recruiting others via classes called “intensives.” Bankrolled by the Bronfman sisters, who were cunningly exploited for their exorbitant wealth and strained familial relationships, the increasingly “dangerous mafia-like” society steamrolled its way into the lives of vulnerable, unsuspecting people, employing blackmail, extortion, forced confinement, and even sex trafficking. Raniere then created offshoots like the particularly insidious Dominus Obsequious Sororium. “By the time of his arrest,” writes Berman about DOS, “at least 102 women had been initiated into Raniere’s secret society. Not all of them had been branded, and not all of them had been coerced into sex, but court records and testimony would show that he considered all of them to be his slaves.” Not for the easily rattled, the author’s engrossing reportage meticulously reveals the tumultuous rise and fall of NXIVM after numerous criminal indictments and prosecutions. The author incorporates critical narratives from former members, laying bare their awful experiences. Her research, which eventually caused her to fear for her own personal safety, informs a vital cautionary tale about how “power, consent, and women’s agency” can be weaponized. File this alongside Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear and Jeff Guinn’s The Road to Jonestown.

An incendiary, serpentine report on criminal manipulation of staggering proportions.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-58642-275-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Steerforth

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 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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