Vital, democratic truth-telling.

LET THE RECORD SHOW

A POLITICAL HISTORY OF ACT UP NEW YORK, 1987-1993

The veteran author, screenwriter, and activist delivers a significant boots-on-the-ground account of the New York City chapter of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power.

Though divisive, ACT UP’s in-your-face activism unquestionably improved life for subsequent generations of people with AIDS. Many of the volunteers saw themselves as warriors, some fighting for their lives by forcing governmental health institutes to care about them and stop delaying treatments. Founded in 1987 by novelist and playwright Larry Kramer, the New York chapter served as the “mothership” of what eventually became 148 chapters worldwide. The organization’s strategy of confrontation was inspired by Kramer’s insistence on political agitation born of necessity. Days before ACT UP was formed he notoriously told a crowd, “In five years, half of you will be dead!” ACT UP’s “boldest act of broad leadership” was the Stop the Church campaign, waged on Dec. 10, 1989, with WHAM! (Women’s Health Action and Mobilization). In a “raw display of power,” activists interrupted a Catholic service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, garnering heaps of both positive and negative media coverage. “Nothing could have been more counter to assimilationist or respectability politics than Stop the Church,” writes Schulman, who was a rank-and-file ACT UP volunteer. A longtime historian of LGBTQ+ activism, the author takes to task other histories of AIDS, including David France’s documentary film How To Survive a Plague (2012), which focuses on the “heroic white male.” Schulman clearly demonstrates that ACT UP was founded in part to engender a relentlessly democratic and inclusive force of activism. That ideology explains the heft of this book, which isn’t written as traditional history but as a mashup of events witnessed by Schulman and oral history that’s truly all-encompassing. Readers are right there with activists, hearing their stories from them but also others who knew them. “Drive and commitment, invention and felicity, a focus on campaigns, and being effective are the components of movements that change the world,” writes Schulman, an assertion born out in the stories told here.

Vital, democratic truth-telling.

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-374-18513-8

Page Count: 736

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Jan. 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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