A disorienting but powerful account of a woman’s search for dignity and identity.

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Missing Frames

MEMOIR OF A WOMAN LIVING WITH HIDDEN DISABILITIES

A woman, writing under a pseudonym, struggles to recover from two traumatic brain injuries in this memoir.

A successful African-American businesswoman, nicknamed “Scooter,” moved from Silicon Valley with her husband to the Trinity Alps Preserve in California. They grappled with rural politics and hoped to build a house on their land by appearing on ABC’s Extreme Makeover television show. Scooter had earlier survived a brain injury from a car accident in 1976, which altered her personality and left her estranged from her family. Now living in Shasta County with her husband and daughter, she slipped and fell in a Lailomaret store and suffered yet another, more traumatic injury. Robbed of her memory, she also had to cope with a schizophrenic husband who became erratic; children with attention deficit and bipolar disorders; indifferent relatives; attorneys who disputed her “hidden disabilities,” such as memory loss and chronic pain; and doctors who distrusted her symptoms. Scooter remembered past events, but then forgot them; she occasionally couldn’t make new memories. However, she strongly recalled things when her emotions took over, or when racism intruded. At times sardonic and self-aware, at other times resentful, defensive, and determined, Scooter reached out to friends for help as her lawsuit moved forward. After appearing in the studio audience on The Oprah Winfrey Show, she was inspired to write her life story. The author’s narrative is associative rather than chronological, but despite small inconsistencies, a coherent timeline soon emerges, poignantly bookended by the dreams that she once had for a rural retreat. Scooter’s observations are blunt (“I expected one of these specialists to use an X-ray machine that could see my pain”), and sometimes chilling; for example, while watching an interview with two other brain injury victims, she notes that the one with a supportive husband had come to depend on him, whereas the abandoned victim, like her, was more proactive. Alternately detailed and vague, her heartbreaking story circles back to fill in amnesiac lapses with sadness and forgiveness.

A disorienting but powerful account of a woman’s search for dignity and identity.

Pub Date: June 19, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4917-4830-5

Page Count: 264

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2015

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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