by Shayla Lawson ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 30, 2020
A hilarious, heartbreaking, and endlessly entertaining homage to black women’s resilience and excellence.
A memoir in essays serves as a bold and deeply personal celebration of black women’s lives and culture.
Black women, writes poet and creative writing instructor Lawson, have always been “possessed of irony and rebellion,” blazing trails and disrupting the status quo. The problem is that “the world wants everything we have to offer, except us. It is not that Black Girl Magic isn’t real. It is that it doesn’t set us free.” In a narrative that is part memoir and part lively social history lesson, the author blends her own story with black women’s broader cultural histories. An essay on the rough emotional terrain of Lawson’s senior year in high school and early 20s gives way to pieces about her failure to become “Twitter famous,” dealing with bias in a “transparent creative sustainable millennial” workplace, and white people mistaking her for black celebrities such as Oprah and Whoopi Goldberg. With smart, infectious prose that often reads like poetry, Lawson illuminates the racism that renders so many black women and their accomplishments invisible—literally, in the case of AI’s discrimination problem. The author also details lesser-known histories about the true origins of the term “hipster” and Rodeo Caldonia, a 1980s-era performance collective of radical black Brooklynites who “were fourth-wave feminists before Riot Grrrl ever hit the third wave.” Lawson celebrates Diana Ross as “major,” an icon who is both “intimate and invincible,” a balm for black women who are routinely viewed as “difficult” or “impossible to get close to.” The music of SZA inspires an extended meditation on dating disasters, sexual double standards, and heartbreak. Lawson’s essays—some traditional, some experimental in form—deftly challenge the notion of #BlackGirlMagic” as an extension of the stereotype of black women as exotic beasts of burden unworthy of protection, as body parts and hairstyles to be appropriated. The author honors black women in their fullness.A hilarious, heartbreaking, and endlessly entertaining homage to black women’s resilience and excellence.
Pub Date: June 30, 2020
Page Count: 336
Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020
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by Britney Spears ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 24, 2023
Spears’ vulnerability shines through as she describes her painful journey from vulnerable girl to empowered woman.
A heartfelt memoir from the pop superstar.
Spears grew up with an alcoholic father, an exacting mother, and a fear of disappointing them both. She also displayed a natural talent for singing and dancing and a strong work ethic. Spears is grateful for the adult professionals who helped her get her start, but the same can’t be said of her peers. When she met Justin Timberlake, also a Mouseketeer on the Disney Channel’s updated Mickey Mouse Club, the two formed an instant bond. Spears describes her teenage feelings for Timberlake as “so in love with him it was pathetic,” and she’s clearly angry about the rumors and breakup that followed. This tumultuous period haunted her for years. Out of many candidates for villains of the book, Timberlake included, perhaps the worst are the careless journalists of the late 1990s and early 2000s, who indulged Timberlake while vilifying Spears. The cycle repeated for years, taking its toll on her mental health. Spears gave birth to sons Sean Preston and Jayden James within two years, and she describes the difficulties they all faced living in the spotlight. The author writes passionately about how custody of her boys and visits with them were held over her head, and she recounts how they were used to coerce her to make decisions that weren’t always in her best interest. As many readers know, conservancy followed, and for 13 years, she toured, held a residency in Las Vegas, and performed—all while supposedly unable to take care of herself, an irony not lost on her. Overall, the book is cathartic, though readers who followed her 2021 trial won’t find many revelations, and many of the other newsworthy items have been widely covered in the run-up to the book’s release.Spears’ vulnerability shines through as she describes her painful journey from vulnerable girl to empowered woman.
Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2023
Page Count: 288
Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023
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by Barbra Streisand ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 7, 2023
What a talent, what a career, what a life, and what a treat to relive it all with this most down-to-earth of demigods.
A gloriously massive memoir from a sui generis star.
When Keith Richards and Bruce Springsteen published 500-page memoirs, that seemed long—but as we learned, they really did have that much to say. Streisand doubles the ante with 1,000 pages. In addition to chronicling her own life, the author offers fascinating lessons on acting, directing, film editing, sound mixing, lighting, and more, as revealed in detailed accounts of the making of each of her projects. As Stephen Sondheim commented about her, “It’s not just the gift, it’s the willingness to take infinite pains.” The pains really pay off. With every phase of her life, from childhood in Brooklyn to her 27-year-romance with current husband, James Brolin, Streisand throws everything she has—including her mother’s scrapbook and her own considerable talent as a writer—into developing the characters, settings, conversations, meals, clothes, and favorite colors and numbers of a passionately lived existence. In the process, she puts her unique stamp on coffee ice cream, egg rolls, dusty rose, pewter gray, the number 24, Donna Karan, Modigliani, and much more. Among the heroes are her father, who died when she was very young but nevertheless became an ongoing inspiration. The villains include her mother, whose coldness and jealousy were just as consistent. An armada of ex-boyfriends, colleagues, and collaborators come to life in a tone that captures the feel of Streisand’s spoken voice by way of Yiddishisms, parenthetical asides, and snappy second thoughts. The end is a little heavy on tributes, but you wouldn’t want to miss the dog cloning, the generous photo section, or this line, delivered in all seriousness: “Looking back, I feel as if I didn't fulfill my potential.”What a talent, what a career, what a life, and what a treat to relive it all with this most down-to-earth of demigods.
Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023
Page Count: 992
Review Posted Online: Nov. 6, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2023
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