A warm, engaging read about the ways in which memory distorts our understanding of family.



Years after the death of her father, a woman explores her family’s past in this memoir.

The genesis of Harrigan’s debut book is in her essay “Revenge of the Prey: How a Deer Killed My Dad,” published by the Rumpus in 2011, and it explores the legacy of her father, who died in a car accident in 1974 when she was 7. The title is a reference to a different accident in the early 1960s, which claimed her father’s dominant hand—a mysterious event that Harrigan worked to uncover. She realized how time had strained her own memory, so she set out to learn more about her father from her other family members only to find out that her dad may not have been the man she remembered. This is the strength of Harrigan’s book, because although her father is its central subject, it’s also about the web of relationships connected to his memory: how did the author’s brother Louis, who read Homer as a little boy for fun and grew up to become an art historian, feel about his gruff, stereotypically masculine father? Why did the author and her sister, Lynn, who was in the car when her father died, become estranged? How does the tragedy influence the author’s approach to marriage and parenting? Harrigan infuses each dynamic with style and drama that make the book consistently engaging, and her prose is lively and accessible: “I’m wearing white Keds or Salvation Army red cowboy boots in the cemetery snow, waiting for my father to rise from underground, as if he’d just been a bear in hibernation.” Her account of her relationship with her son, Noah, is a highlight, showing how he must learn to accept his own father (Harrigan’s ex-husband). However, she does have a tendency to belabor the unreliability of memory; frequently, she reminds readers of how it’s “Strange how people in my family have different pieces of memories,” as if it weren’t the book’s clear, predominant theme. Despite this redundancy, though, the book feels fresh and reads easily.

A warm, engaging read about the ways in which memory distorts our understanding of family.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61248-210-1

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Truman State University Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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