Evocative essays that delve into the paradoxes of human life.



An English professor blends autobiography with social critiques in this essay collection.

Montgomery’s father built fences for a living, spending his “days removing dirt, adding posts in such a way that erosion or strong wind won’t knock them down.” Indeed, despite her sometimes messy childhood, the author’s father served as the fence post of her life, whose presence represented strength and safety until he contracted cancer. And while she is now an accomplished author and assistant professor at Bridgewater State University, Montgomery still sees herself as a “child,” afraid of the dark future, searching “for anything that will keep me with Daddy longer.” While grief and the raw vulnerability of a daughter who realizes her once invincible father now “exists in darkness” lie at the emotional core of the book, they also set the stage for broader reflections about her childhood and American society and culture. The volume’s autobiographical passages are written in a nonlinear style that jump back and forth across decades and locations, presenting the author’s recollections of her childhood, young adulthood, and relationship with her father in vignettes. Interspersed throughout these snapshots is a biting commentary on contemporary America, as the encroaching darkness of her personal life coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic; ever increasing societal isolation and polarization; and environmental catastrophes spawned by climate change. An extended metaphor of buried treasures, which connects a childhood memory to how humans write their own personal histories, is particularly well executed. “We bury the things we believe will define us after death,” she notes, hoping someday someone will dig them up. “In this way, we write the histories that will prevail.” As the author of multiple books of poetry, Montgomery is a skilled writer whose prose is simultaneously beautiful and tragic, nostalgic and despondent. And while the specific stories are the author’s own, the book taps into universal themes of grappling with complex family dynamics, growing up, leaving and returning home, and confronting death. This is a brilliant, if rather eclectic, collection; readers will hope for a sequel.

Evocative essays that delve into the paradoxes of human life.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-952897-25-52

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Split Lip Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2022

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


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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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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