Menkedick's driving question is to figure out “whether returning home signifies growing up or giving up or both—and if it’s...

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HOMING INSTINCTS

EARLY MOTHERHOOD ON A MIDWESTERN FARM

An account of the author’s transition from wandering spirit to anchored, responsible mother.

The idea of taking a gap year after high school, before entering college, is fairly recent but also increasingly common for students, many of whom take time to travel. Engaging in that most liberal of educations ostensibly provides a rounding to the education received from textbooks and in classrooms. Some students find it suits them so well that a year stretches into two, or, in the case of Vela magazine founder Menkedick, nearly a decade. After receiving a degree in the history of science, the author traveled around the world, teaching English as a second language, working odd jobs, and always seeking new opportunities for travel, “the lines of my journeys tentative, then picking up speed, arching across the planet, pulsing on obscure islands.” Drawing from the experiences and writings of Joan Didion, Susan Sontag, Louise Erdrich, Anne Enright, and other writers, Menkedick erases and redraws parts of herself as she experiences greater self-understanding, weighing values and goals against those of others in her family. She finds that her writing, previously fueled by travel, comes to serve as a stand-in for traveling itself. The natural world around her in rural Ohio provided significant opportunities for reassessment, and she embraced the entirely different journey of pregnancy and motherhood. Menkedick's writing is insightful and evocative, drawing on all the senses, and readers will be impressed by the sense of place in her writing, even while she's laboring to discern the meaning in her experience.

Menkedick's driving question is to figure out “whether returning home signifies growing up or giving up or both—and if it’s both, what exactly we want to give up in exchange for what.” The magic of this book is that she makes so personal a question so easily accessible to readers.

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-87141-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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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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